Author Archives: Joseph Neff

Graded on a Curve: Thelonious Monk,
Brilliant Corners

Thelonious Monk’s 1957 LP Brilliant Corners, his third for the Riverside label, belongs in any serious collection of Modern Jazz. But only 4,000 people will be able to place Craft Recordings’ Small Batch edition of the album on their shelves. It’s out today, October 4, pressed on 180-gram vinyl at RTI using Neotech’s VR900 compound and cut via one-step lacquer process from the original tapes by Bernie Grundman. Each individually numbered set is nestled into a foil-stamped, linen-wrapped slipcase with an acrylic inset of the original artwork, a reproduction of the original tip-on jacket, frictionless packaging, and words by Ashley Khan. It suffices to say the set is an immaculate beauty to behold and hear.

Like the other greats of Modern Jazz, Thelonious Monk recorded a whole lot, in studio and captured in live performance. And in Monk’s case, the discography hasn’t been static, as documentation of gigs has been recently discovered, in one case rescued from a dumpster, to fan the flames of contemporary interest in one of the greatest of all jazz pianists.

But as fine as these new entries to the catalog have been, it’s important to not lose track of the recordings that established Monk’s status. Brilliant Corners is prime amongst them. To argue that this LP is the apex of his studio discography is in no way a contentious statement, as there are only two or three other candidates truly deserving of this distinction.

Brilliant Corners is doubly attractive as it heightened Monk’s profile in the 1950s. After emerging on the scene as a leader through essential records for Blue Note, he then lost his cabaret license, which kept him from performing live. Thereafter, he recorded for Prestige for a long stretch, then switched to Riverside as his fortunes improved. Along with returning to live performance, Brilliant Corners sold quite a few copies and also spotlighted Monk’s own compositions (his first Riverside album was a Ellington tribute and the second was made up of standards).

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Graded on a Curve:
Big Star,
Nothing Can Hurt Me

Celebrating Jody Stephens in advance of his 71st birthday tomorrow.Ed.

The Memphis group Big Star has long been a favorite of folks who love smartly conceived guitar-based pop-rock, and while few bought their records when they were hot off the presses, their status as an enduring cult staple is undeniable. After a long relationship with discerning turntables everywhere, Big Star received the Big Screen treatment with a documentary titled Nothing Can Hurt Me, and the soundtrack collects unique mixes of material long-considered classic. That the songs included here could easily slay a busload of Big Star newbies is testament to not only the band’s everlasting importance but also to the admirable ambitions that made this 2LP set and its accompanying film possible.

Over the last few decades the music documentary has really become one of the steadiest (some might say unrelenting) currents in the whole vast field of non-fiction filmmaking. And this shouldn’t be any kind of surprise. For everybody loves music, or so it’s often been said. But this doesn’t change the fact that some musicians/bands are far more deserving of having their story represented on film than others.

Simply stating that a very few groups are more worthy than Big Star of having their existence outlined through the medium of the film doc can initially smack of extreme devotion and perhaps even flat-out hyperbole. For just like the old saw that everybody loves music, it’s just as often been said that everybody has a story, and even, nay especially, in the non-fiction field the plain facts of the narrative ultimately aren’t as important as the way the events get told.

But if we dig a little deeper, the documentary’s inherent connection with the “real world,” or specifically the manner in which things don’t always work out the way we’d like them to, is especially resonant to the tale of Andy Hummel, Chris Bell, Jody Stephens, and Alex Chilton. For unlike the life of Ray Charles or the early years of The Beatles, Big Star is far from a good fit for the Hollywood treatment, or at least for the situation as it currently stands in the movie-making industry.

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Graded on a Curve: Creation Rebel,
Hostile Environment

As a vital component in the thriving late ’70s-early ’80s UK dub scene, Creation Rebel amassed a worthy discography. On October 6, after 40 years, the trio of core members Crucial Tony, Charlie “Eskimo” Fox, and Mr. Magoo return with a new record, Hostile Environment, that is as engagingly bent as its grooves are deep. Its high quality is no surprise, as the list of guest contributors is substantial, and there are archival recordings from the late deejay Prince Far I in the equation. Furthermore, the outfit’s constant associate Adrian Sherwood aided with production as he released the results on yellow vinyl and four panel digipak CD on his On-U Sound label.

As told by Adrian Sherwood, who was there from the start, Creation Rebel initially came together as a studio project and backing group. The first record released by Sherwood, not on On-U Sound but on the Hitrun label, was credited to Creation Rebel. Issued in 1978, Dub From Creation features productions and vocals from Prince Far I that were gifted to Sherwood for use on the record.

This sets up a robust circularity, for as mentioned, this return to action from Creation Rebel gets boosted by two Prince Far I vocals that were discovered in the vault, and right off the bat in “Swiftly (The Right One),” where the deejay’s voice gets speed altered until he sounds like a groggy mountain giant. It’s just one part of a deliciously twisted dub scheme that includes some sweetly unusual synth playing from the noted reggae affiliated musician-producer Gaudi.

Sherwood’s telling of the Creation Rebel story details an increase in vocals that found them straddling the roles of backing band and proper group, but it’s still nice to hear they’re capable of spirited instrumentals like the melodica-driven “Stonebridge Warrior.” But a hearty lead-backing vocal weave (complete with toasting and a little off-kilter scatting) is integral to the forceful impact of “Under Pressure.”

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Graded on a Curve Video Premiere: Lulu Lewis, “Destroy”

Lulu Lewis, the NYC-based duo fronted by Dylan Hundley alongside multi-instrumentalist Pablo Martin, are no strangers to this column, and here they are again with their typically terrific new single “Destroy All Data,” which receives some appreciative words below as we premiere its video. It’s a glove-tight union of sound and image that thrives on a rich and edgy approach to a complementary blend of styles, namely early new wave, post-punk, and electro-pop. Check out the vid ahead of their next live show, which is part of the O+ Festival in Kingston, NY on October 6th.

There’s really no disguising that Lulu Lewis’ main inspirations derive from the late ’70s-early ’80s. As listed above, Hundley and Martin tap into the era that found new wave exploding alongside punk as fresh new genres like synth-pop and mutant disco were born under the banner of post-punk. However, it should be noted that far too frequently, contemporary examples of this mélange of genre flaunt a surface brightness that’s ultimately weakened by an underlying sense of the shallow.

But Lulu Lewis are the real deal. A significant part of their lasting appeal is pretty simple, deriving from solid songs well played and confidently sung. But adding considerable value is their refusal to get boxed into one particular stylistic corner. For example, “Destroy All Data” is a terrific body mover, fully embracing a dance club vibe while retaining an atmosphere of subversiveness and alienation.

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Graded on a Curve:
The Feelies,
Some Kinda Love

On October 13, 2018 in Jersey City, NJ’s White Eagle Hall, guitarists Glenn Mercer and Bill Million, bassist Brenda Sauter, drummer Stanley Demeski and percussionist/ keyboardist Dave Weckerman, a gang collectively known as The Feelies, played a long set of songs by request in connection with the opening of The Velvet Underground Experience exhibition in NYC. Some Kinda Love: Performing the Music of The Velvet Underground documents that show, and on October 13, five years to the day later, it’s released for home consumption on 2LP and CD through Bar/None Records.

Cover songs are an integral part of the whole rock ‘n’ roll shebang, but when it comes to versions of material by The Velvet Underground, I’ll confess to being something a stickler. This is partly because The Velvets are my pick as the greatest (non-jazz) band of all time, and additionally, my favorite band ever (jazz included).

But personal protectiveness is not really the issue with my persnickety nature toward VU covers. It’s just that their stuff is so hard to get right, as far too many attempts get too hung up on replicating the source’s cool factor, while others are just far too reverent in approach, and still more diminish the essence of the originals by structurally altering them too severely or transmogrifying them into an artist or band’s personal style.

Great VU covers are certainly possible (see Big Star’s “Femme Fatale,” Thurston Moore’s “European Son,” and Luna’s “Ride Into the Sun”) and aren’t even necessarily rare, but middling versions are far more common and I’ll make the case that egregious missteps outnumber the gems. To my ear, it took Imaginary Records three tries to put out a various artists tribute compilation (in the label’s Heaven & Hell series) where the good to great outnumbered the duds. It would be even more difficult for a single performer or band to cut an entire album of VU covers that didn’t fumble the task.

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Graded on a Curve:
Bark, Loud

Based in Water Valley, Mississippi, Bark is the married duo of Tim Lee on Bass VI and vocals and Susan Bauer Lee on drums and vocals. LPs? They’ve released a few, with their latest getting some instrumental and production assistance from, amongst others, a couple Drive-By Truckers. Tough but tuneful and roots-raw but non-retrograde, the 10-song effort has been given an appropriate title. Loud is out now on blue vinyl and compact disc through Dial Back Sound and Cool Dog Sound.

Tim Lee’s musical activity is considerable, as he came to ’80s underground notoriety in The Windbreakers, Beat Temptation and solo, along with a few other projects. More recently, he was the anchoring force in Tim Lee 3; for a deeper dive into Lee’s discography, check out the review of Tim Lee 3’s Devil’s Rope via this very website.

Susan Bauer Lee was Tim Lee 3’s bassist, but for Bark, she’s commandeering the drum kit, a switch that’s been working out just marvy. She also adds vocals to the scheme, strengthening the roots-punk (think X) and Paisley Underground (see early Dream Syndicate) foundations of Bark’s sound, though it’s not like the duo is retracing any particular band’s stylistic footsteps.

In addition to Bass VI (a six-string bass guitar designed for bottom-end melodic versatility), Tim plays baritone guitar on Loud, choices ensuring the songs are as hefty as they are catchy, but his tone is also appealingly ragged throughout the set. This solidifies (but doesn’t strain for) a punk connection, while jibing nicely with Susan’s drumming, as she’s hitting and kicking hard and generally eschewing the caveperson thump that’s often associated with guitar-bass duos.

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Graded on a Curve:
Roxy Music,
Roxy Music and
For Your Pleasure

Celebrating Bryan Ferry in advance of his 78th birthday tomorrow.Ed.

Bursting onto the scene 50 years ago, Roxy Music’s blend of glam rock and art rock proved highly influential while being impossible to imitate, as the music of singer Bryan Ferry, synthesist Brian Eno, saxophonist Andy Mackay, guitarist Phil Manzanera, and drummer Paul Thompson was simply drenched in personality. Virgin/UMe’s vinyl reissue program of the band’s eight studio albums began with debut Roxy Music and its 1973 follow-up For Your Pleasure, both half speed mastered at Abbey Road Studios by the engineer Miles Showell. Bluntly, these four sides of wax are indispensable to any collection of 20th century rock music.

Looking back on it, it feels wholly appropriate to describe Roxy Music as coming out of nowhere in 1972. Their debut LP arrived sans any pre-release singles, with “Virginia Plain” b/w “The Numberer,” the band’s first 45, cut just short of a month after Roxy Music’s release, a short enough span that its hit A-side was added to nearly all later pressings of the album (on the subject, please note that Virgin/UMe’s release retains the sequence of the UK first edition).

The nature of the band’s arrival is nicely encapsulated by Roxy Music’s opening track “Re-make/Re-model.” After a passage of what might be intended as dinner party ambiance (shades of Ferry the pure sophisticate to come), Roxy explodes forth, maximally but methodically, and by song’s end it’s clear that in this particular outfit at this point in time, nobody was taking a back seat (well, except maybe bassist Graham Simpson, who exited after the LP’s release, with Rik Kenton stepping in for “Virginia Plain,” only to be quickly replaced on For Your Pleasure by John Porter).

This is not to suggest that Roxy Music lacked in restraint; “Ladytron” on side one of Roxy Music and “Chance Meeting” on the flip offer solid evidence of such, even amongst flare-ups of experimentation. However, Roxy’s reality during this era was much more inclined toward the audacious. In its own way, Roxy Music is as much a line in the sand as The Stooges’ Funhouse before it or The Ramones after.

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Graded on a Curve:
The Birthday Party, Junkyard

Celebrating Nick Cave on his 66th birthday.Ed.

Need a fitting soundtrack for tuning up that rattletrap fuel-guzzling dragster in the garage? Or are you looking for a fab backdrop whist brushing up on the books of the Old Testament, though not for their supposed lessons but rather for their rampant bloodletting and begetting? Maybe you’re desirous of the appropriate musical accompaniment for the dilapidated trailer-park whiskey-still explosion finale in your yet to be filmed epic screenplay? Well, suitable listening for all three circumstances is Junkyard and it’s by The Birthday Party.

These days Nick Cave is a well respected man of letters, an unabashed litterateur whose eternally thin visage gets brief cameo spots in the big Hollywood films that happen to sport his scripts. Indeed, he can be located in Lawless, currently (hopefully) playing in a theatre near you as directed by his friend and collaborator John Hillcoat. But it should also be noted that once upon a time, Cave was a completely punk-centric scribe, his scrawling taken seriously by only a small handful beyond the ‘80s subterranean music playground. In fact his double duty as a musician and writer placed him in the direct company of such names as Henry Rollins, Lydia Lunch, and Chris Desjardins aka Chris D.

Way back then Cave’s “thing” as a pen wielder was totally wrapped up in how he presented a booze-soaked and drug-bent updating of the Southern Gothic tradition as previously staked-out by such Advanced American Lit-Class stalwarts as William Faulkner and especially Flannery O’Connor at her most darkly acidic. Yes, even though the dude hailed not from the Southern US but from the very down there climes of the Australian continent. And why not? Hell, at the time Cave started putting pen to pulp there was hardly anybody in the states besides the late Harry Crews that was even bothering to up the ante on this fine patch of fictive territory anyway.

But who knew, even at the time of the early Bad Seeds, that Mr. Cave would eventually enter the estimable halls of established literary fame, sitting within hailing distance of the greatness of one Big Billy Faulk (to use eternal hipster Terry Southern’s typically charming nickname of endearment for Faulkner) himself?

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Graded on a Curve:
Jesse Davis,
¡Jesse Davis!

Remembering Jesse Ed Davis, born on this day in 1944.Ed.

Prior to his death in 1988, the noted Native American guitarist Jesse Ed Davis played on records by numerous big names, including Bob Dylan, Leon Russell, Taj Mahal, John Lennon, Ringo Starr, and Harry Nilsson. If you’ve heard the guitar solo in Jackson Browne’s “Doctor, My Eyes,” well, that’s him. But not so well known are Davis’ own records, which is weird, as his 1971 debut for Atco, ¡Jesse Davis!, features guests Russell, Gram Parsons, and Eric Clapton, amongst others. It’s a solid affair that’ll be a welcome addition to any shelf of sharp and rootsy early ’70s sounds.

Listening with fresh ears in 2022, ¡Jesse Davis! fits into the early 1970s Atco Records scheme pretty damn snuggly, a tight fit that derives in large part from the judiciously applied guests; in addition to those named above, Davis’ debut pulled in contributions from singer Merry Clayton (The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter,” Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama”), bassist Billy Rich (Paul Butterfield, Taj Mahal), drummer Alan White (Plastic Ono Band, Yes), and keyboardists Ben Sidran (Steve Miller Band, dozens of sessions, his own stuff), and John Simon (The Band, Big Brother & The Holding Company).

Rather than merely attempting to increase sales by flaunting the names Clapton and Russell, Atco’s intent seemed to be aligned with making the best record possible (along with some clear mutual backscratching). Other examples from the label include a handful from Delaney & Bonnie (albums that offer some insane credits lists) and Dr. John’s The Sun, Moon & Herbs, which is notable, as a couple moments on ¡Jesse Davis! are reminiscent of the Night Tripper, the set’s opener “Reno Street Incident” in particular.

The song’s a bit like Dr. John fronting The Band in a Meters frame of mind, and “Tulsa County” (an oft-covered song by Pamela Polland) retains a bit of that aura, while upping the rock and reducing the funk. Speaking of rocking, “Washita Love Child” is where Clapton and the backing singers come in, and setting aside my antipathy for ol’ Slow Hand today, his solo here is a burner even as it stands on the precipice of showboating.

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Graded on a Curve: Colleen,
Le jour et la nuit du r​é​el

Cécile Schott, who records and performs as Colleen, is no stranger to this column and TVD’s year end Best lists. Initially coming to prominence as a skilled player of the viola da gamba, on her recent albums that instrument has been set aside as she excelled at wedding experimentation and song form. But on her latest effort, a 2LP set consisting of seven instrumental suites, Schott limits her tools to a single Moog synthesizer and two delays. The results are striking and often deeply beautiful, standing as a breakthrough for both Schott and her chosen instrument. Le jour et la nuit du r​é​el is out September 22 through Thrill Jockey.

Cécile Schott’s last album, 2021’s The Tunnel and the Clearing, was amongst that year’s very best. It’s brilliance was such that one could speculate that following it up would prove daunting, particularly as The Tunnel and the Clearing was itself a follow-up to a masterpiece directly prior, 2017’s A flame my love, a frequency. In short, the significant change of direction established across Le jour et la nuit du r​é​el could’ve easily been an attempt to relieve the pressures of high expectations.

But this assumption doesn’t take into account Schott’s movement away from the viola da gamba, as that instrument was a major component in her work through 2015’s Captain of None, her first recording for Thrill Jockey. Additionally, as Schott’s discography is marked by constant growth, it’s easy to accept the artist’s statement that her new record, which did begin as songs with lyrics, morphed into sound synthesis (that is, no acoustic instruments) sans vocals due to Schott’s growing cognizance of the impossibility of grasping “all facets of reality, especially one’s own emotional reality and that of others.”

For Schott, sound synthesis was the best way to express the impossibilities of fully ascertaining reality. Le jour et la nuit du r​é​el is her first purely instrumental album since 2007’s Les Ondes Silencieuses, though her choice to use only the Moog Grandmother (a monophonic semi-modular synth), and two delays, the Roland RE-201 Space Echo and a Moogerfooger Analog Delay, is a new development. However, it’s important to note these instruments aren’t new to Schott, as she’s worked with samples, loops, and instrumental processing in the broader landscapes of her earlier work.

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Graded on a Curve:
The Garment District, Flowers Telegraphed to All Parts of the World

The spark plug that fires The Garment District’s engine is multi-instrumentalist Jennifer Baron, though on new album Flowers Telegraphed to All Parts of the World, she gets a big assist from her cousin Lucy Blehar, who handles lead vocals across seven of the set’s nine tracks. There have been other notable contributors to prior recordings, including Jowe Head of Swell Maps and Kevin C. Smith of The Artificial Sea. Baron’s latest is a catchy yet ambitious and expansive affair that’s out September 22 on orange vinyl and digital through Happy Happy Birthday to Me Records.

Jennifer Baron was a founding member of The Ladybug Transistor, a Brooklyn-based outfit that was one of the 200 or so outfits affiliated with the Elephant 6 Collective, but are perhaps more commonly known as part of Merge Records’ ’90s boom period. I remain quite fond of that group, and Baron was part of my personal favorite in their discography, the near-perfect Albemarle Sound, released in ’99.

Gathering this knowledge of Baron’s background prior to hearing The Garment District spurred musings over Flowers Telegraphed to All Parts of the World possibly extending The Ladybug Transistor’s blend of baroque pop, psych pop, and sunshine pop. The verdict is only somewhat, as there are enough similarities to make The Garment District’s latest a complementary listen rather than a break from Baron’s past.

Flowers Telegraphed’s opener “Left on Coast,” and particularly its minute-long jangle-psych prelude, does strengthen ties to Baron’s prior band, but in short order the track kicks into high pop-rock gear, though the momentum is still tangibly psych-infused via ’60s garage organ licks and string ripping that’s reminiscent of Rob Schnieder (I’m thinking specifically of The Marbles).

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Graded on a Curve: Second Layer,
World of Rubber

Post-punk side projects don’t get much better than Second Layer, a dark and edgy electronics and guitar excursion featuring Adrian Borland and Graham Bailey from the critically lauded outfit The Sound. Earlier this year, the 1972 label collected Second Layer’s early material onto the Courts or Wars LP, and that set’s been promptly followed with a reissue of the duo’s sole full-length World of Rubber. Originally released in 1981, the album’s nine tracks walk an exquisite tightrope of anxiety and alienation.

One of the lingering headscratchers of the post-punk era is how The Sound’s commercial success fell significantly short of their critical standing. Formed by Borland and Bailey out of the dissolution of the punk outfit The Outsiders, The Sound’s debut full-length Jeopardy impressively and deservedly received five-star reviews in all three of the major UK music weeklies (The New Musical Express, Melody Maker, and Sounds), but this esteem didn’t spark sales commensurate to the (often lesser) bands to which The Sound are frequently compared.

The Sound’s early stuff is aptly assessed as full-bodied and tense post-punk, but it wasn’t overly abrasive or particularly difficult in structure. Borland and Bailey’s near simultaneous forming of another band could be viewed as a possible channeling of their more caustic experimental tendencies away from The Sound proper, though they also kept a handle on quality songs in Second Layer’s scheme.

Indeed, one of World of Rubber’s strongest aspects is songwriting that’s often a cut above the norm for these sorts of post-punky (and thoroughly UK) sojourns, experiences that are reliably longer on atmosphere than legit tunes. We’re talking bleak and tense with structural angularity and intermittent explosiveness. And to be clear, atmosphere is perfectly fine, but songs are a definite plus, especially when the writing is more than mere approximations of Joy Division, Gang of Four, PIL, Wire, or the Pop Group.

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Graded on a Curve: Cannonball Adderley, Somethin’ Else

Remembering Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, born on this date in 1928.Ed.

Blue Note Records celebrated 75 years of existence by giving numerous key titles from their incomparable catalog high-quality vinyl reissues, and it’s fitting that we began our tribute to the label’s longevity with a look at one of their very finest releases, the great alto saxophonist Julian Cannonball Adderley’s 1958 masterwork Somethin’ Else.

The LPs of Blue Note’s classic-era are aptly described as an embarrassment of riches. Along with loads of amazing music, there is of course the surrounding context, and engaging with the fruits of the imprint’s labors offers a truly enlightening historical narrative. Naturally, it’s only part of jazz’s larger story, but it’s also a highly valuable component since Blue Note is an example where respect for the music trumped pure capitalistic desire.

That respect extended to the amount of studio time given to the musicians, but it also concerned other vital aspects of record production, beginning with the use of engineer Rudy Van Gelder and ending with the company’s justly celebrated graphic design. Blue Note didn’t have the market cornered on either the Van Gelder touch or the manufacturing of handsome album jackets, for it really was a fantastic era in terms of both fidelity and sharply conceived presentation, but throughout the salad days of Modern Jazz (and for a good while afterward) the label was at the forefront.

Somethin’ Else is one of many excellent Van Gelder jobs, but some may evaluate its sleeve as solid but not spectacular. Please allow me to disagree. While I don’t think it’s one of the very greatest of Blue Note covers, it is nicely pared down to only essential information and is a fine model of strong but subtle construction; obviously the large black space, but also the contrast with the white lettering, and then the font, bold type that possesses just a hint of distinctiveness. Add the further contrasting element of color, with green for the leader and blue for his band.

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Graded on a Curve: Matthew Shipp,
Circular Temple

Recorded in 1990 and released on compact disc two years later, Circular Temple by the Matthew Shipp Trio is a fathoms-deep excursion into a jazz avant-garde that was revitalized and on the move. On September 15, the record, which showcases bassist William Parker and drummer Whit Dickey with pianist Shipp, is receiving its second reissue, this time on ESP-Disk, and on vinyl for the first time with new artwork by Yuko Otomo. Consisting of four movements with the second a nod to Thelonious Monk, the music is gripping and wildly beautiful. It is a must for any serious collection of avant-garde jazz.

Circular Temple first came out on Quinton Records, the sole release by Shipp’s own label. The CD had solid artwork by Ann Kalmbach and a terrific liner essay by poet John Farris, but like many self-released records, it was fated to essentially fall under the radar in an era when the profile of free jazz was on the upswing.

I first heard about Circular Temple two years later when it was reissued, once more only on CD (with a different cover illustration by Lawrence Holzworth) by Infinite Zero, the very interesting label started up by Henry Rollins and Rick Rubin during the ’90s record industry boom time that was devoted solely to reissues of cool stuff (e. g. Devo, James Chance, Iceberg Slim, Tom Verlaine, Alan Vega, Alan Watts, Flipper, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Trouble Funk).

Like a lot of folks reared on punk rock and associated sounds during this era, I was looking to branch out stylistically beyond, and having already caught the jazz bug with a predilection for the avant-garde, I picked up a copy of Circular Temple (I do believe the only jazz recording on Infinite Zero, though Rollins did put out new recordings by Shipp and others in the avant-jazz scene on his own 2.13.61 label). To say I was promptly blown away by the sheer range of its power is an understatement.

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Graded on a Curve:
Das Damen,
1986: Keeps Me Wild

Of the mid-1980s bands that cast aside the limitations of hardcore, Das Damen burned bright, but ultimately didn’t break big like some of their cohorts. They are far from forgotten however, as an expanded and remastered reissue of the band’s debut EP is available now digitally through Dromedary Records, with a vinyl edition scheduled for late October. 1986: Keeps Me Wild adds four reworked EP tracks with guests A Girl Called Eddy, The Screaming Trees’ Gary Lee Conner, Come’s Thalia Zedek, The Fluid’s John Robinson, and Black Flag’s Dez Cadena, plus six 2-track demos recorded with Wharton Tiers. Anyone striving to keep their ’80s rock underground collection complete will need this on their shelves.

Reissues like 1986: Keeps Me Wild are wholly necessary in the service of historical accuracy, as nearly a decade before the Grunge phenomenon, bands were tapping into hard rock and psychedelia in an attempt to break free from the stylistic rules and regs of the standard hardcore punk. Although from NYC and tight with Sonic Youth (as Thurston Moore’s Ecstatic Peace label released the EP reissued here), the band’s closest compatriots were really Boston’s Dinosaur Jr.

Like Dinosaur Jr., Das Damen had direct hardcore roots, as guitarist-vocalist Alex Totino and drummer Lyle Hysen were in The Misguided. That band released a pair of 7-inch EPs in ’82–’83 and were part of the legendary Charred Remains compilation tape from ’82 (alongside such heavyweights as Hüsker Dü, Void, Double-O, Articles of Faith, Die Kreuzen, and Violent Apathy).

1986: Keeps Me Wild comes with a fresh edition of Hysen’s ’80s fanzine Damaged Goods, which along with recollections from Moore, radio personality-podcaster-author Tom Scharpling, and the band members themselves, includes some review clippings of the EP from the ’80s music press. The one that sticks out is the late Tim Yohannan’s from Maximum Rocknroll, who acknowledges a similarity to Hüsker Dü but dismisses the record as guilty of the R&R excesses that “necessitated punk in the first place.”

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