Author Archives: Joseph Neff

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Chuck Cleaver, Send Aid (Shake It) Cleaver’s a Cincinnati guy whose been at it for a long time, first in the Ass Ponys and more recently in Wussy, an oft-terrific band he co-fronts with Lisa Walker, where they both play guitar and sing. The blurb for Send Aid informs that, after being at it for a few decades, this is Cleaver’s first solo record, and with Walker and Wussy’s Mark Messerly lending a hand, Send Aid isn’t exactly a radical departure. And yet: for those who know his prior work, the record is a distinct and refreshing affair, with his bandmate’s input fairly restrained (backing vox and mandolin for her, accordion for him) as a half-dozen others step into the studio to assist and Cleaver plays multiple instruments across a tidy ten tracks in under 30 minutes.

Back in the early ’90s I had this habit of haunting any joint that sold cheap used tapes, mainly so I could play them in my jalopy of the moment. Send Aid brought back this memory, in part because the non-polished, not-quite lo-fi quality of the recording, and the tunes of course, connect like an indie record from approximately ’92-’96. And the more I play this (and at 27:45 I can play it a whole fucking lot) I’m convinced that if it had come out during the era mentioned, and I’d grabbed a copy on tape, it would’ve stayed in the deck for weeks at a time. What else? Fine use of drumbox rhythms on a pop-rock and roots-inclined record. Even better use of jaw harp in the standout stomper “Children of the Corn,” in which the Stephen King reference goes deeper than the title and is doubly terrific. A total keeper. A

Lea Bertucci, Resonant Field (NNA Tapes) Bertucci’s bio describes her as a “NYC based sound artist and composer whose work bridges performance, installation, and multichannel activations of acoustic space.” I dig. For Resonant Field, she’s traveled upstate to the Marine A Grain Elevator at Silo City in Buffalo, with the intention of exploring the sonic possibilities of the cast concrete cylinders, which are approximately 18 feet wide and 130 feet tall. The range of what she’s captured is impressive, and she expands it even further by having Robbie Lee play Renaissance flute in the opening “Wind Piece” and James Ilgenfritz add bass to the other three tracks, plus there are drum samples (played by Tigue) in the title track. The avant-garde aura coupled with the environmental timbres and textures is superb. A

The Lewis Express, “Clap Your Hands” b/w “Stomp Your Feet” (ATA) Soulful-funky grooving is happening at the moment, and the ATA label of Leeds, England is a big reason why. We’re talking music by The Magnificent Tape Band, The Sorcerers, Tony Burkill and indeed, The four-piece Lewis Express. The combined success comes partly through organic instrumentation rendered live to tape, but range is also crucial; it’s a quality that’s present on this 45. The Lewis Express’ baseline is the ’60s piano-based groove jazz of Ramsey Lewis and the Young-Holt bands, but the a-side here mingles that with boogaloo to splendid effect. The flip is more straight-up, though handclaps remain. I love George Cooper’s electric piano, but everybody’s firing on all cylinders. If you want to live Mod in 2019, this is unbeatable. A

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Record Store Club | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve:
Bad Education Vol. 1: Soul Hits of Timmion Records

Out July 19 on vinyl, CD, and digital, Bad Education Vol. 1: Soul Hits of Timmion Records delivers many things at once: Foremost, it documents the high quality found in the recordings issued by the Timmion label of Helsinki, Finland. It’s also testament to the good taste of Daptone enterprises, who compiled and are co-releasing the LP, and additionally emphasizes the soul scene camaraderie in the association. Furthermore, with Carlton Jumel Smith, Nicole Willis, Wanda Felicia, Bobby Oroza and others on board, it underscores that soul singing is far from a lost art. Just as importantly, the instrumental contributions are consistently sharp.

In short, Timmion Records offers the whole package in soul terms, with Bad Education serving as a fine primer into their discography. For those already hip to Timmion’s wares, all but one track is previously released, either on 45 or LP. However, everything here unwinds with such well-considered verve that folks who already own most (or even all) of these selections might end up springing for a copy anyway.

It kicks off with one of the highlights from Carlton Jumel Smith’s 1634 Lexington Avenue, a recent release (just a smidge over two months old, in fact) that establishes the label’s foothold on soul quality hasn’t loosened. Upbeat, brightly hued and oozing positivity, “This Is What Love Looks Like!” is tangibly early ’70s in its soulfulness. The guitar line is fleet, the saxophones hearty, and Smith is in firm command.

It’s followed by El-Paso, TX-born, San Diego, CA-raised Jonny Benavidez’s falsetto showcase “Tell Me that You Love Me,” culled from a 2017 45 where he’s backed by Timmion house band Cold Diamond & Mink, who lend plenty of warmth and enough rhythmic kick to insure things don’t go full-on velvety (Benavidez’s vocal panache could’ve carried this into straight-up lovey-dovey mode).

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve:
Mark Mulcahy,
The Gus

Veteran singer-songwriter Mark Mulcahy, he of Miracle Legion and Polaris, has a new solo record out, adding to his already ample sum, and it’s safe to say that folks into his prior work will find it of interest. The artist’s aim to cut the record with strangers didn’t pan out, but the results still lack the aura of mere motions traversed. Inevitably deepening the familiarity that comes with a long career, The Gus is largely an invigorating and purposeful addition to his catalog. It’s out now on vinyl, compact disc, and digital via the Mezzotint label.

With his 2013 return to musical action Dear Mark J. Mulcahy, I Love You, the titular man received praise from novelist Rick Moody, which in literary terms is a considerable accolade. And for The Gus, which comes after 2017’s The Possum in the Driveway (his follow-up to Dear Mark J.), Mulcahy found inspiration in the writing of George Saunders.

This may leave Mulcahy newbies suspecting that he’s a fine lyricist (or at least trying to be), but unsure over his instrumental strengths. These doubts might relate to how musicians who get singled out for the quality of their words (or who find influence or simple stimulation between the covers of books) often accompany their verses and choruses with sounds that can strike the ear as almost an afterthought. Or perhaps the music is precious or trite (as if the lyrics are transforming cliché).

Worry not, however. While it’s clear Mulcahy spends time in the reading room, it’s just as plain he’s been inspired and has honed his craft in clubs and bars. Plus, he’s been at it a long time, with Miracle Legion debuting in the mid-’80s. Mulcahy has obviously witnessed a lot of changes firsthand, though his solo stuff has maintained a pretty consistent mingling of “classic” singer-songwriter and indie qualities.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve:
Bruce Haack,
The Electric Lucifer

Born in 1931 in an Alberta, Canada mining town and deceased in 1988 from heart failure, Bruce Haack is rightfully considered one of the trailblazers of electronic music. He’s responsible for an eclectic and often eccentric oeuvre, but his most famous LP is the one he made for Columbia in 1970. The Electric Lucifer remains an inimitable and visionary work.

Quickly dropping out of Julliard in the mid-‘50s, Bruce Haack initially made a living writing both pop songs and scores for dance and theater, but on his way to electronic music immortality he also simultaneously devoted his energies to serious composition, completing work in the highly prescient musique concrète style, a form wildly popular with the ‘50s avant-garde. He was also a creator of early synthesizers, with his inventions landing him on television programs such as The Tonight Show and I’ve Got a Secret, where Haack often demonstrated his heat and touch sensitive Dermatron. As such, he’s often linked with Raymond Scott as an inhabitant of the oddball-visionary wing of electronic music, the ties to Scott enhanced by a significant portion of his discography being designed for the enjoyment and benefit of youthful ears.

In the case of the three volumes of Scott’s Soothing Sounds for Baby, the intended audience was still lolling in the crib, but the records produced by Haack for his own Dimension 5 label took on a more educational approach. Offered in homemade black and white covers with the assistance of dance instructor Esther Nelson, pianist Ted “Praxiteles” Pandel, and later Haack’s friend and business manager Chris Kachulis, their look and sound does give off a strong whiff of the unconventional.

However, spending time with Emperor Norton’s 1999 CD/LP survey Listen Compute Rock Home – The Best of Dimension 5 reveals an aesthetic that’s ultimately not much stranger than the early personality of Jim Henson, sharing with the Muppet man a desire to engage the growing mind through imagination rather than exuding superciliousness or thinly veiled attempts at conformity. And the creativity and frequent sense of humor allow the music to transcend its didactic aims and to be of continued interest to inquisitive adults.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores for
July 2019, Part One

Part one of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases—and more—presently in stores for July, 2019.

NEW RELEASE PICK: Rachel Musson, Pat Thomas, Mark Sanders, Shifa – Live at Cafe Oto (577) The stream of 577 jazz vinyl continues with this absolute stunner from the UK-based trio of Musson (last heard on Federico Ughi’s excellent Transoceanico) on tenor and soprano sax, Thomas at the piano and Sanders behind the drum kit. The participants have played together before but not in this configuration, though there’s nary a trace of the tentative across the two free improvs. To the contrary, as the energy level gets way up there, deep into “Improvisation 1” Musson threatens to tear the roof off the sucker. Along the way, Thomas unfurls a bevy of angular clusters, board runs and rumbles that bring to mind Cecil Taylor and Matthew Shipp, but he’s so consistently good that comparisons are easy to forget.

Sanders sounds terrific throughout. Obviously due to those thoughts of Taylor, his playing led me to Andrew Cyrille and Rashied Bakr, and that’s swell. Musson really shines however, even deeper into “Improvisation 1” there’s a passage reminiscent of Peter Brötzmann (in trio with Kent Kessler and Hamid Drake Live at the Empty Bottle) that’s quickly followed by a cooler exchange with Thomas that’s briefly akin to mid-’60s Sam Rivers conversing with Paul Bley. The heat quickly gets turned back up, and it’s kinda like a “lost” LP cut by Cyrille, Dave Burrell and Frank Wright for BYG/Actuel. Actually, no; it’s just Musson, Thomas and Sanders at the top of their game. The opportunity to hear sax, piano and drums discoursing at such a level is special, indeed. LP includes download of the unedited “Improvisation 1.” A

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICK: Television Personalities, Some Kind of Happening – Singles 1978-1989 & Some Kind Of Trip – Singles 1990-1994 (Fire) My introduction to Dan Treacy’s Television Personalities came through the inclusion of “Part Time Punks” on Rough Trade’s majestic Wanna Buy a Bridge? compilation LP, which I scored secondhand not long after the ’90s got rolling. Now, you might be thinking that it’s fortunate my intro to this enduring outfit was culled from the group’s second single (that’d be the 4-song “Where’s Bill Grundy Now?” EP), and I totally agree, but I’ll add that it took me a couple of years to hear the whole thing (through an Overground Records repress) and even longer to catch up with their debut 45 “14th Floor” b/w “Oxford St., W.1.”

That’s just how it was in those days. While contemporarily it’s much easier for the ear to absorb an artist or band’s musical history with some semblance of promptness and order, it really helps when a label rounds up the material with consideration and quality, which is exactly what Fire has done here. The 2LP vinyl came out for RSD, with Happening adding a 7-inch (keep in mind that downloads complete the wax editions) but here are the CD bookbacks (everything is on the discs), and since both formats are still available, now’s a great time to enthuse over their considerable worth. Of course, this isn’t the complete TVP picture (as there are a bunch of killer LPs), but these collections do a wonderful job documenting the proto-DIY beginnings into twee psych-pop toward a bigger/ brighter/ bolder neo-psych sound. A/ A-

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Record Store Club | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve: Sounds of Liberation, Unreleased (Columbia University 1973)

Emerging from the Germantown & Mt Airy neighborhoods of Philadelphia in 1970, the Sounds of Liberation are a noteworthy chapter in the labyrinthine progressions of 1970s jazz. This is in no small part due to the participation of vibraphonist Khan Jamal and saxophonist-flautist Byard Lancaster. Out now on vinyl through Dogtown Records in collaboration with Brewerytown Beats Records and with CDs available through Chicago’s Corbett vs. Dempsey label, Unreleased (Columbia University 1973) documents the group’s unusually wide stylistic reach. Offering what its makers dubbed Black Liberation Music, it’s an enlightening pleasure for the ears.

In addition to Jamal and Lancaster, the Sounds of Liberation consisted of guitarist Monette Sudler, bassist Billy Mills, and drummer Dwight James, with significant input from percussionists Omar Hill and William Brister (aka Rashid Salim). In March of 1972, they first hit the studio for an LP that was issued the same year by Dogtown, initially as New Horizons.

Later pressings, including Porter Records’ 2010 LP/ CD reissue, were eponymous; under either title, the album delivers a killer journey into the funky-spiritual jazz dimension. As it hasn’t inspired much in the way of conversation or articles either in print or on the web, I’d also argue that the set is underrated (it’s OOP physically but currently available for the hearing on digital platforms).

Sounds of Liberation’s name does come up in relation to the Khan Jamal Creative Art Ensemble’s Drum Dance to the Motherland, which was recorded in October of ’72 and also released by Dogtown (with CD and LP reissues by Eremite in 2006 and 2017, respectively). If New Horizons/ Sounds of Liberation resides pretty plainly in the neighborhood of spiritual jazz groove, Drum Dance to the Motherland (which features Sudler, James and Mills in the band) was just as clearly a break from exploratory post-Fire Music norms, featuring in-the-moment sonic processing that’s tangibly and strikingly dub-like.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve:
Lulu Lewis,
Genuine Psychic

Lulu Lewis isn’t a person but a Harlem, NYC-based band, the core of which is vocalist Dylan Hundley and guitarist Pablo Martin, the husband-and-wife co-songwriters joined live by bassist William X Hawley, drummer Jay Mumford, and keyboardist/ percussionist Bruce Martin. Back in 2017, they released a self-titled cassette EP that offered a tight introductory four-song set of new wavy/ post-punky pop-rocking, a sound their debut full-length Genuine Psychic expands upon to fruitful result. It’s out July 12 digitally and on vinyl in a limited edition of 100 copies through Ilegalia Records; the same day they play a record release show with DC’s Messthetics at Brooklyn’s Union Pool.

If the name Dylan Hundley rings a bell, that might be due to her participation in the cinema of Whit Stillman, specifically Metropolitan, the director’s first feature from 1990 and a significant (if sometimes overlooked) entry in the US independent film canon. And if Pablo Martin sounds familiar, there’s a good chance that’s related to his role in Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz’s Tom Tom Club.

Genuine Psychic offers a fresh avenue of recognition for the pair, with the album’s songs well-rounded, the better to appeal to older heads and youngsters alike. As mentioned in the intro above, the taster EP placed them securely in pop-rock territory through a sensibility that was more than a bit reminiscent of the late ’70s-early-’80s; Hundley has pipes and frontwoman presence that’s descended from the likes of Debbie Harry. This isn’t to suggest she hits peaks as high as Harry at her best, but Hundley does get close at times, and hey, this is just Lulu Lewis’ first LP.

Smartly, Genuine Psychic grabs the two best songs from the EP and puts the very strongest right up front, with “Gone to LA” spotlighting a distinctive, bubbly-on-the-edge of breaking vocal quality in the choruses. It’s a treat, and in fact the song is a definite all-around earworm. That’s not a positive in and of itself, but here, yes, which is credit to the musical foundation.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores for
June 2019, Part Four

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Abdullah Ibrahim, The Balance (Gearbox) South African-born pianist Ibrahim, formerly known as Dollar Brand, has been on the scene for decades, cutting his debut LP as part of the sextet the Jazz Epistles (alongside Hugh Masekela) in 1959. I’m not anywhere close to hearing all of his work, but my favorites would include his numerous early solo piano sets and an informal series of duos, including with Argentinian saxophonist Gato Barbieri, fellow South African bassist Johnny Dyani, and two with greats from the US scene, drummer Max Roach and saxophonist Archie Shepp. Ibrahim’s ’60s trio work has also struck my ear, and I recall liking his ’76 effort Banyana – Children of Africa with bassist Cecil McBee and drummer Roy Brooks, though it’s been a long time since I sat down with that one.

I’ll confess to being less familiar with his later stuff (’80s and forward), though I do enjoy his soundtracks for Chocolat and No Fear, No Die, the first two features by Claire Denis (a director born in Paris but raised in colonial French Africa). This is his first album in four years, and at age 84, Ibrahim’s prowess is still quite sharp. Indicative in the record’s title is a sort of heightened beauty through interconnectedness that never succumbs to insubstantiality, even as the opening track features Cleave Guyton Jr.’s flute and is titled “Dreamtime.” Adding weight throughout the album is Marshall McDonald baritone sax, especially in the meaty “Tuang Guru.” Andrae Murchison’s trombone is sweet, as well. The buoyant up-tempo “Jabula” is an immediate highlight, but everything goes down wonderfully. A

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Catherine Christer Hennix, The Deontic Miracle: Selections from 100 Models of Hegikan Roku (Blank Forms Editions / Empty Editions) The discography/ bibliography of Swedish-American composer Catherine Christer Hennix is undergoing a considerable expansion. Noted as part of the NYC minimal drone avant-garde scene, for a long time the only place to hear her work (credited as C.C. Hennix) was on the recordings of Henry Flynt; she contributes tambura to C Tune, Purified By Fire and is co-billed as drummer on Dharma/Warriors. All three were released by Locust Music in the first decade of the 2000s, though the recordings date from 1980-’83. However, in 2010 the Die Schachtel label released the CD/ book The Electric Harpsichord. It was, as they say, revelatory.

Recorded in 1976, The Electric Harpsichord is dedicated to the memory of Ṥṛi Faquir Pandit Pran Nath (who passed in 1990) and includes poems by La Monte Young and a liner enthusiasm from Glenn Branca. This should provide a few clues from where Hennix’s vast thing derives. The music on this release, two long tracks, each divided in two across four sides of vinyl and totaling nearly an hour and 25 minutes, also dates from ’76 and was created by her group The Deontic Miracle, a trio of Hennix, her brother Peter and Hans Isgren. Based on the concept of just intonation, fans of the Theater of Eternal Music should consider this a must. It follows Blank Editions release last year of Hennix’s Selected Early Keyboard Works (also dating from ’76) as two books of her writings are on the horizon. Outstanding. A+

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Record Store Club | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve:
Sonny Stitt,
Lone Wolf: The Roost Alternates

Saxophonist Sonny Stitt made plain that the best way to emerge from another artist’s shadow is to simply persevere. Well, that and focus more on the tenor sax. Initially downgraded (if not totally dismissed) as a Charlie Parker imitator, Stitt didn’t let the criticism slow him down; from the late 1940s to the early ’80s, he recorded well over 150 albums. Of course, not all of those are great. The brand-new Lone Wolf: The Roost Alternates does flirt with that level of quality however, rounding up unissued takes from the ’52-’57 period of his lengthy association with the Roost label. Out June 28 on Run Out Groove through Warner Records, it offers Stitt in fine form and leading consistently sharp bands.

Indefatigable and adaptable; both terms fit Sonny Stitt like a glove. As the decades unwound and the records piled up, he who was once belittled for his similarity to Charlie Parker came to be valued as one of the grand survivors of the original bebop era. All the while, he was refusing to be boxed in by this reversal of esteem, picking up the electric saxophone, exploring the potential of soul jazz, and dishing albums of pop covers (like ’73’s Mr. Bojangles), though he could still deliver in the trad Modern Jazz manner. He recorded and gigged regularly up to his death from cancer on July 22, 1982.

Stitt was a strong player with classic LPs in his discography and an impressive list of achievements. He briefly played with Miles Davis, co-led two groups with tenor-man Gene “Jug” Ammons, and played in the bands of Dizzy Gillespie and alongside the trumpeter in the ’70s-era outfit The Giants of Jazz. As said, time has vindicated Stitt, and it can be tempting to completely dismiss the naysayers as being hypercritical. However, there is still an important distinction to be made.

Charles “Yardbird” Parker Jr. remains one of the great musical innovators of the 20th century (if one whose rep has been somewhat unfairly eclipsed by that of John Coltrane). Stitt has claimed that his style on alto was a case of parallel development, and I’m in no position to dispute that claim. But Stitt, to my knowledge, has never been pronounced as an architect of a new musical form, which is not to put him down but just to state facts.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve: Vanilla Fudge,
Near the Beginning

To soak up Vanilla Fudge’s talent as song-interpreters the best route is their eponymous ’67 debut. A further understanding of them as a singles act is most appropriately gleaned through the Rhino compilation Psychedelic Sundae. If an immersion into the multifaceted positives and negatives of these trailblazing late-‘60s hard rockers’ everyday reality is what one wants however, then one should look into the contents of Near the Beginning.

There’s no question Vanilla Fudge are an important band. “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” the group’s reading of a Holland-Dozier-Holland tune originally by The Supremes, is a vital evolutionary brick in the hard rock megastructure, and it stands as a one-song distillation of nearly everything that was good and potentially less than stellar about this hard-touring New York quartet. There are two versions of the Fudge’s recording, a just shy of three-minute single edit and the take found on their debut; that one’s over twice as long, and this duality is to an extent indicative of the group’s creative problems. It’s far from that simple though, and their somewhat brief and highly eventful initial existence provides a consistently interesting story, if one that’s only sporadically fruitful in musical terms.

Vanilla Fudge’s beginnings are in The Electric Pigeons, the soul cover unit featuring organist/lead vocalist Mark Stein and bassist Tim Bogert. They soon acquired guitarist Vince Martell and drummer Carmine Appice, and after hooking up with Shangri La’s producer Shadow Morton, they changed names and focused attentions on the studio.

The first effort turned out to be the best, but it was also a problematic record. Those soul roots were still showing; in fact, they never went away, flaring up rather flagrantly later in their tenure, but on Vanilla Fudge, it’s not a decisive detraction. It’s true that “People Get Ready” (and the first album is composed entirely of covers) is no great shakes, but “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” is one of the better R&B lifts in ‘60s rock precisely because it displays a disinterest in mimicry (a real issue with NYC bands of the era) to instead hone a variation on a then new sound.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve:
Frank Hurricane,
Life Is Spiritual

While I can’t claim to be an expert on the breadth of the man’s output, it suffices to say that Frank Hurricane works in recognizable territory while being in a class by himself. His latest is a further refinement of his singular approach as released through a steady stream of cassettes, CDRs, and vinyl since the beginning of the decade. Setting certain aspects of his method mostly aside, perhaps temporarily, Hurricane continues to zero in on the psychedelic, the folky, the laidback, and the eccentric. Life Is Spiritual is out now on vinyl in an edition of 1,000 as a split release from Feeding Tube and Crash Symbols.

Here are some things I have learned about Frank Hurricane. He is an excellent fingerpicker. He likes to swap the vowel i for the sometimes y in words, but not always, so that the title of his 2012 cassette is Night Tyme Vybes. His ’16 release Pymp World (released first on tape, next on CDR and available now on LP through Ultra Eczema) comes with the description “THIS IS THA NEW FRANK HURRICANE TAPE! POP, FOLK, COUNTRY, HIP-HOP, AND COMEDY! MY FAVE THING I’VE DONE IN A LONG TYME!” He enjoys hiking.

More stuff: He is fond of the descriptors “holy,” “psychedelic, “gangsta,” and “off the chain,” and he frequently ends sentences with “dog,” or more appropriately “dawg,” and “man,” pronounced “mane” like Al Pacino in Brian De Palma’s rap culture cornerstone Scarface. Hip-hop is indeed a component in his overall thing, exclusively so on the 2012 CDR EP “Flowin Internal” (released under one of his alternate monikers, Gangsta Love), though his style is decidedly lo-fi, captured direct to cassette and using the presets of an archaic Casio keyboard. He’s from the “Dirty South,” most recently Tennessee.

Upon initially soaking up Frank Hurricane’s reality, I had more than a couple of moments where it was debatable whether or not he was “for real.” This relates to the comedy aspect mentioned as part of Pymp World, but which came through for me strongest in the “story” tracks on his 2013 2LP Quintorian Blues. That one seems to be his first release for Feeding Tube.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve:
The Gun Club,
Fire of Love

The Gun Club underwent myriad changes in personnel during their existence, but the one constant element was founder Jeffrey Lee Pierce. In 1979 he formed a group whose impact is still being felt today. The best place to begin investigating Pierce’s achievement is at the beginning with The Gun Club’s classic 1981 debut Fire of Love.

Whenever OFF! undertakes a tour there’s undoubtedly a smattering of older heads reliably if reluctantly finding themselves getting a little misty around the eye sockets when the band pencils in “Jeffrey Lee Pierce” for the set list. Deservedly so, for that song, all 1:21 of it, is a tribute to an important if undersung rock contributor, and not by a fan but from a close friend. Indeed, the intro to the cut on Live at the 9:30 Club finds Keith Morris steeped in emotion, his preamble roughly as long as the track itself.

Now, some folks might get a bit miffed over certain umpteenth-generation hardcore whippersnappers only knowing of Jeffrey Lee Pierce because Morris wrote a song about him. But easy there, partners. We all tend to occasionally idealize and even embellish our paths of musical discovery, mainly due to the reality sometimes being as bland as simply plucking a cassette from a discount bin. That was this writer, fishing a severely marked-down copy of the third Gun Club album The Las Vegas Story from a massive box of cut-out tapes in a mall chain store back in 1987.

Perhaps somewhat more interesting is what led me to make that purchase. I first learnt of The Gun Club through an article published in an anthology/anniversary issue of Flipside magazine. Having been exposed to punk not long previously, restlessness over the music’s generic inclinations had already set in, and simultaneous to the almost daily unearthing of new delights.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

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

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Kongo Dia Ntotila, 360° (Pussyfoot) BBC DJ and noted rocker Tom Robinson has praised this Kongo-Jazz group as being “…as good as anything you get coming out of Africa…” Absorbing their second LP, it’s easy to understand his (and others) enthusiasm, and by the finale, I’m won over myself. However, it should be noted that Kongo Dia Ntotila have honed their thing to an audience-thrilling precision; this is music custom-built for outdoor shows in the sunshine. That they have done this without weakening the music’s power by becoming too calculated (or too “tight”) is borderline remarkable. Instead, there are a series of instrumental surprises, like the deft guitars in “Mbongo” and the free jazz horn flirtations in the title track. Miraculously, this baby finishes the trip with a full tank. A

SPAZA, S/T (Mushroom Hour Half Hour) SPAZA is a band with no fixed personnel brought together by the label. As their first release, it features a half-dozen musicians (for the closing track “Stametta Spuit: Invocations,” seven) from Johannesburg, South Africa. The band’s name derives from the makeshift neighborhood stores common to the region, and also from the gallery where this album was recorded live in one take, with the music completely improvised. If the circumstances of creation insinuate a lack of focus, wipe those notions away right quick. Rhythm is a constant, though the record is as vocally driven (often with contempo enhancements) as it is groove-based. Additionally, synths, electronics, and FX blend with upright bass, trombone and electric violin (again, with FX). Altogether, this is a stunner. A

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: V/A, Jambú e Os Míticos Sons Da Amazônia (Analog Africa) Loaded with inventively rhythmic selections from Northern Brazil in the ’70s and the city of Belém in particular, this offers two LPs worth of goodness unlikely to have been previously heard by all but the most diligent of sound excavators. A big reason for the success here derives from variety thwarting monotony, which is a credit to compilers Samy Ben Redjeb and Carlos Xavier but is more deeply linked to Belém’s reality as a port city; as people of assorted nationalities arrived, they brought the sounds of their home regions with them (this is the nature of the port situation; think New Orleans), which then combined with Belém’s already considerable diversity. Of the 19 tracks, not a single one disappoints. That’s impressive. A

Band Apart, S/T (Crammed Discs) For those looking to procure as much No Wave and scene-adjacent material as possible, this reissue is a must, and the quality is consistently high that pickier consumers with an interest in the style should also give it some serious consideration. It features the entirety of this Franco-American duo’s debut 1983 EP and five tracks from the follow-up full-length (on the vinyl; the CD and digital offer two additional tracks). What NYC poet and performance artist Jayne Bliss and Marseille-based musician and producer M Mader came up with was very much of its time, but it has aged surprisingly well, which is no small feat given how they lean toward the sophisto (rather than the disruptive) end of the subterranean ’80s spectrum. Originally issued on Crammed, and so it remains. A-

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Record Store Club | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve: Michael Winograd,
Kosher Style

When clarinetist Michael Winograd’s new record entered this writer’s reality as an upcoming release, some form of coverage was basically inevitable. That its arrival on June 21 includes an attractive vinyl edition surely aided in securing it a long review, but the foremost reason is the quality of its 13 tracks. Worry not, for this isn’t an example of the slightly above-average getting thrust to the forefront for simply being amongst the best the contempo scene has to offer; just for starters, Winograd has played with the great violinist Itzhak Perlman. As the words below illuminate, he is the real deal, and Kosher Style is masterful klezmer. The record is out now through OU People.

Record release PR regularly comes attached with quotes of positivity from relevant parties. These additions range from superfluous to insightful, but they are rarely worthy of non-promotional citation. However, the statement accompanying Kosher Style from Canadian accordionist and klezmer man Geoff Berner is an exception: Winograd is not a dabbler. He isn’t an aspiring 12-tone composer who can play some klezmer. He isn’t a punk-rocker looking for a new angle on approaching his songwriting. He IS a klezmer. He knows klezmer. He fucking blows away the room at klezmer.

Listening to the opening title-track here, one need not be a klezmer expert to absorb the rightness of Berner’s statement, as the virtuosity is undeniable, and just as important is a palpable joyous assurance; at a smidge over two minutes long, “Kosher Style” wiggles and soars as a statement of intent. Along with establishing the band’s overall prowess, the highlights are Winograd’s clarinet runs and a sweet solo from trumpeter Ben Holmes.

Berner’s words could insinuate that Winograd is a stern purist. Track titles like “Bar Mitzvah Bulgar” might strengthen this implication. Indeed, Winograd has been long based in Brooklyn, and it’s doubtful there is a locale in the US where a klezmer specialist could close themselves off from contempo influences in the desire to replicate and preserve the sounds of an earlier era.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve:
Neil Young + Stray Gators, Tuscaloosa

With Tuscaloosa, the Neil Young Archives continue to grow. Documenting a night on the road in 1973 with his band the Stray Gators post-Harvest and prior to the arrival of Time Fades Away, this latest installment is intrinsically tied to both of those celebrated records while presenting broadened and toughened aural portraiture of the artist. The results, incomplete and partially the byproduct of Young’s frustrations during this period of newfound success, cohere quite well and should make a nice addition to the shelves of devoted fans; more casual listeners might find its succinct range appealing. It’s out now on double vinyl (with an etched side four), compact disc, and high-res digital through Reprise.

Neil Young is a musician I respect quite a bit, with a large percentage of his output held in at least fairly high esteem, but somewhat predictably for a music nut, I remain largely indifferent to Harvest, the record that will likely endure as his highest-profile work. Every few years I go back and check out the whole thing again to see if my feelings have changed. Thus far, that hasn’t happened.

Unlike some folks, I don’t dislike Harvest as much as I’m just underwhelmed by its abundantly clear and undeniably effective commerciality. I bring up my lukewarm relationship because that album is a major component in Tuscaloosa’s whole. Of the 11 selections captured in the gymnasium of the University of Alabama (again, not the whole evening, as the soundboard recorder apparently wasn’t turned on at the beginning of the set and ran out of tape before the end; additionally, a few songs were simply omitted by Neil), five are from Harvest.

But partially due to the performance circumstance (delivering these songs in a building intended for playing basketball games), there’s more heft and edge to the Harvest tracks; in the order of their playing, “Out on the Weekend,” the title track, “Old Man,” and “Heart of Gold,” all unraveling as a lump after two pre-Harvest solo songs, “Here We Are in the Years” from his ’69 debut and a solo piano “After the Gold Rush,” and toward the end of the album, “Alabama.”

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment
  • SUPPORTING YOUR LOCAL INDIE SHOPS SINCE 2007


  • Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text
  • Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text