Category Archives: The TVD Record Store Club

Graded on a Curve: New in Stores for September 2021, Part Four

Part four of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for September 2021. Part one is here, part two is here, and part three is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Elder Jack Ward, Already Made (Bible & Tire Recording Co.) Fat Possum label exec and indefatigable mensch Bruce Watson, who also runs the Big Legal Mess imprint, has also been doing wonderful things recently with Bible & Tire, his Southern gospel-themed endeavor, issuing two superb volumes spotlighting the output of JCR Records for starters, but even better, organizing sessions with currently active exemplars of Sacred Soul like Dedicated Men of Zion, Elizabeth King, and Elder Jack Ward, who is recording for the first time in over 50 years with Already Made. In addition to briefly filling O.V. Wright’s spot in the Sunset Travelers, Ward sang on “Don’t Need No Doctor,” the 1964 gospel hit by the Christian Harmonizers (recorded for the Chalice label, a subsidiary of Stax). Further solo singles followed on Peacock’s Song Bird label and then with his group the Gospel Four on D-Vine Spirituals (a retrospective of this imprint’s catalog is coming in 2022 from Bible & Tire), though Ward eventually set recording aside to become a mechanic.

But if not making records, Ward’s been busy singing on Sundays along with his family band as the founder and pastor of Earth Temple Holiness Church in North Memphis, so that Already Made lacks even a speck of rust. Instead, he exudes both confidence and conviction as he’s backed by the Elder Ward Company Singers (the harmonies are rich throughout) and a top-notch band featuring both Will Sexton and Matt Ross-Spang on guitars, with the organ of Rick Steff and Alex Greene enhancing that churchy feeling. Now, those who know of Watson’s background mainly through the raw blues of R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough might be expecting Ward to be operating in the same neighborhood, but just on the sacred side of the fence. That’s not the case however, as the singing, playing and production are crisp and clean. And yet, in pure feeling terms, Already Made is comparable to the wildest blues or R&R mania that’s out there. And there are a few bluesy undercurrents along the way. Soul? Oh, there’s an abundance of that. Ward’s singing is a delight throughout an album that’s essentially faultless. A

The Shivas, Feels So Good // Feels So Bad (Tender Loving Empire) This Portland, OR-based four-piece’s latest, a 13-song platter, is also their seventh album. As it’s a consistent treat for the ears, the tenacity and longevity are impressive. A big hunk of their prior stuff came out on Calvin Johnson’s K label, which, if you don’t know The Shivas, might give you a false first impression, as the thrust of the band’s sound is decidedly pop-rocking in a ’60s classique manner (with drummer-singer Kristin Leonard the ace in the hole in this regard) and with varying levels of neo-psych. There are a couple of doo-wopping, post-Spector moments that got me to thinking of Norton Records, but the majority of this is loud and distorted enough to saunter into an Anton Newcombe-like zone. And while the riff in opener “Feels so Bad” is huge, there’s a melodic sensibility that occasionally reminds me just a tad of Robert Schneider. But the toughness of the band’s thrust eradicates any traces of psych-pop bubblegum. There are a few pretty moments, such as the surplus jangling in “A Gift.” A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICK: Maximum Joy, “Stretch” b/w “Silent Street – Silent Dub” (1972) Formed in Bristol in 1981 by horn man Tony Wrafter, fresh from the breakup of the Glaxo Babies, and vocalist-clarinetist-violinist Janine Rainforth, they snagged two former Glaxo Babies in drummer Charlie Llewellin and bassist Dan Catsis, and rounded out the band with guitarist John Waddington, formerly of the Pop Group. Anyone with moderate knowledge of UK post-punk might suspect what’s the score, if they don’t know already. It’s funky, it’s punky, it’s dubby, it’s skronky, and it has the vocal presence of the 18-year-old Rainworth (that’s her on the cover), extending from Poly Styrene (those wonderful screams) on the wickedly grooving A-side, and Ari Up on the dub deepness of the flip. Just a few months over 40 years ago, this was their debut single, a stone post-punk classic, absolutely essential, originally issued on Y Records in the UK and 99 Records in the USA and given a well-deserved anniversary pressing by 1972. Listening to these two long tracks, it’s clear this band still doesn’t get enough retrospective love. A

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Graded on a Curve: New in Stores for September 2021, Part Three

Part three of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for September 2021. Part one is here and part two is here.

NEW RELEASE PICS: Satoko Fujii, Piano Music (Libra) This CD is a life-affirming gift from one of modern music’s greatest pianists. It offers two long tracks, the first, “Shiroku,” lasting 19 minutes, the second, “Fuwarito,” reaching 27, that wouldn’t exist except for the Covid-19 pandemic. They capture Fujii alone, and not in the long-established solo mode, but instead creating sound collages built from recordings of prepared piano, Fujii stitching them together seamlessly using a computer at home during quarantine. Sound collage is a new discipline for Fujii, but prepared piano is not (interestingly, one of her methods is placing a guitar Ebow on the strings), so that this excursion into unfamiliar territory is grounded in expertise. I mention this in part because the drones in “Shiroku” are truly first rate and additionally striking, as the sustained resonances were assembled from pieces lasting only one or two minutes. In his enjoyable liner notes for the disc, Shiro Matsuo mentions that not all of Fujii’s fans will be pleased with Piano Music’s contents, but I sure am. The disc is an astounding accomplishment. A

Norman W. Long, BLACK BROWN GRAY GREEN (Hausu Mountain) Long is a Chicago-based guy who’s toured as part of Angel Bat Dawid and tha Brothahood and collaborated with Damon Locks and members of Tortoise (amongst others), but he’s mostly known as a sound artist with an emphasis on field recordings (often manipulated field recordings, which are the best kind). This release (available on CD and cassette) opens with the nearly 23-minute “SOUTHEAST – LIVE 2019,” a recording of a performance held at the Experimental Sound Studio on May 17 of the year in the piece’s title. Listened to loud on headphones, the work is immersive and holds stretches that border on the overwhelming. If altered to varying degrees by Long’s hand, much of the progression documents recognizable sources (crickets chirping and birdsong, for two examples), but there’s still plenty of mystery in the unwinding. It’s followed by four worthwhile pieces recorded in Long’s home studio that utilize sounds captured near his residence in Chicago’s south side. Overall, a brilliant and admirable release. A-

Sonny Vincent, Snake Pit Therapy (Svart) For a long time, Sonny Vincent was mostly noted for singing and playing guitar in the first-wave NYC punk band Testors. But as documented by Diamond Distance & Liquid Fury- Sonny Vincent: Primitive 1969-76, which came out last year via HoZac, Vincent was haunting recording studios much earlier than that (in the protopunk outfits Distance, Fury, and Liquid Diamonds). Even better, he’s remains active and continues to pack a wallop with this set of 15 songs, its title shared with Vincent’s recent book of recollections, poetry and fiction. That he’s still dishing out worthy stuff isn’t exactly a surprise, as his 2014 album Spiteful (featuring Rat Scabies, Glen Matlock, and Steve Mackay) was quite the solid undertaking. Vincent reliably radiates a Noo Yawk street-rockin’ swagger, but importantly, he doesn’t go overboard with the attitude, instead focusing his energies on writing songs of high quality. Snake Pit Therapy is no dress-up retro show, rocking hard and catchy enough to please fans of mid-period Hüsker Dü (Vincent has played with Greg Norton). Thoroughly vital. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICK: Sheila Jordan, Comes Love: Lost Session 1960 (Capri) The 11 tracks on this CD predate Jordan’s classic Portrait of Sheila album on Blue Note by two years, although her recording debut was singing four songs on an obscure LP credited to bassist Peter Ind in 1960. It’s unclear which occurred first, the Ind session or this date, as the specifics of Comes Love are a little hazy; we don’t even know who the accompanying musicians are. They might be John Knapp on piano, Ziggy Wellman on drums, and either Steve Swallow (who played on Portrait of Sheila) or Gene Perlman on bass (as they were Jordan’s band during her engagements at the Greenwich Village club the Page 3 around this time), but there’s really no way to be sure. What is abundantly clear is that Comes Love documents Jordan in strong voice, with nary a subpar or even a tentative selection in the bunch. As I’ve always found jazz singing to be something of a tough sell (yes there are plenty of exceptions), this is no small feat. Is it as strong as Portrait of Sheila? No, but it does find her hovering in the proximity of greatness. A-

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Graded on a Curve: New in Stores for September 2021, Part Two

Part two of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for September 2021. Part one is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: New York United, Volume Two (577) This set follows-up a lovely self-titled LP from 2019, on which an exquisite fusion of jazz and electronics was unveiled as conjured by the quartet of Daniel Carter (saxophones, flute, trumpet, clarinet), Tobias Wilner (synthesizers, percussion, vocals, piano, guitar), Djibril Toure (bass), and Federico Ughi (drums). As on the first record, the basis is group improvisation, although it’s more frequently groove-rooted than purely abstract (Toure is noted for playing bass with Wu-Tang Clan), which is further enhanced in post-production by Wilner, his input honing a sound that’s likely to appeal to lovers of ambient electronics and strains of beat-driven techno (and when Carter blows trumpet, even Hassell’s Fourth World music, but just a little bit). But fans of avant-jazz will find much to enjoy as well. When the first album came out, the group moniker/ album title connected like a reflection upon the bond of togetherness. Given all that’s happened since, it now registers like a statement on survival. Available on vinyl (limited grey and black) and digipak CD. A-

Jessica Ackerley and Daniel Carter, Friendship: Lucid Shared Dreams and Time Travel (577) This digipak CD serves as my introduction to guitarist Ackerley. She plays acoustic with remarkable skill and communicative prowess in duo with Carter, who brings his reliable stash of horns (sax, flute, trumpet, clarinet) to the recording; throughout its eight dialogues, he improvises at a typically high level. While these interactions were documented at Scholes Street Studio in Brooklyn, the musical relationship (indeed, the friendship) of Ackerley and Carter was solidified by playing outdoors in a park last summer. Even with this knowledge, the familiarity and the comfort level are at times astonishing here. I’ll add that the atmosphere that’s established by the pair is casual and quite approachable rather than full-tilt bananas, which is worth mentioning given Carter’s rep for wild skronk (though it’s not the only arrow in his quiver) and Ackerley’s background in experimental noise (likewise, amongst other pursuits), as she also plays electric. I’m eager to hear more of her work. Daniel Carter continues to amaze. A

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: O.V. Wright, A Nickel and a Nail and Ace of Spades (Real Gone) Originally released in 1971 or ’72 (sources differ), the cover of this album is definitely a conversation piece. Looking at it, you might think the label’s center of operations was a storage shed, but no, Back Beat was a subsidiary of Duke Records, an important enterprise in the history of gospel (through Don Robey’s Peacock imprint), R&B (on Duke proper), and soul via Back Beat, featuring such notables as Carl Carlton (“Everlasting Love”), Roy Head (“Treat Her Right”), and the prolific Wright, who had five albums released on Back Beat, of which this was number four. Cut at Royal Recording Studios in Memphis with production by Willie Mitchell and featuring the Hi Records rhythm section and the Memphis Horns, the music is uncut Southern soul, a sound that contrasted with the increasingly polished direction taken by so many early ’70s soul singers and production houses. The band here is unimpeachable. Wright’s gospel drenched vocalizing never falters. Al Green fans shouldn’t sleep on this one. A

Rick Deitrick, Coyote Canyon (Tompkins Square) This is the fourth reissue/ archival album from guitarist Deitrick, who is (thus far) the most prolific of the players to have been introduced to the wider public via Tompkins Square’s Imaginational Anthem Volume 8: The Private Press, an album now nearly five years old. Folks who know the first few volumes of that instrumental guitar series might be thinking that Deitrick’s an American Primitive guy, but that’s not the case. However, I don’t want to cultivate the impression that he’s undertaking some radical departure. Really, the main difference is that Deitrick plays in standard tuning. This is a significant distinction to be sure, but much of his work (here and elsewhere) strives for beauty regions that’re comparable to assorted nooks of the American Primitive impulse. Coyote Canyon features seven tracks recorded between 1972-’75, with a nearly ten-minute piece from 1999, “Three Sisters,” serving as the tidy record’s finale. The span of years isn’t really discernible, and Deitrick’s playing exudes calm without becoming overly tranquil. A-

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Graded on a Curve: New in Stores for September 2021, Part One

Part one of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for September 2021. 

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Steven Bernstein’s Millennial Territory Orchestra, Tinctures In Times (Community Music, Vol. 1) (The Royal Potato Family) This is the first of four albums, all issued on vinyl, that will complete trumpeter-composer-arranger Bernstein’s Community Music series, with Vol. 4, Popular Culture, scheduled for release on September 2 of next year (Vol. 2, Good Time Music, paring the orchestra with vocalist Catherine Russell, comes out in January, while Vol. 3, Manifesto of Henry-isms, where Bernstein’s Hot 9 is joined by keyboardists John Medeski and Arturo O’Farrill, releases on May 1). Each volume has its own theme, with this set marking the first time Bernstein’s Orchestra has played his own compositions (having previously focused on his arrangements of other people’s material). While tagged as an orchestra, the credited players on Tinctures in Time total up to a nonet that’s steeped in tradition but with boldness of execution and edge that should satisfy avant-garde heads, who likely already know Bernstein, anyway. He’s played with everybody, and his tunes cut strong mustard. A

Buck Gooter, Head in a Bird Cage (Ramp Local) I’ve mentioned in a prior review that a live show, specifically a hometown opening slot warming up a touring act, served as my proper introduction to this Harrisonburg, VA-based u-ground industrial duo. After that show, I became a certified fan of Terry Turtle and Billy Brett, and the esteem hasn’t wavered through numerous releases, though this one marks a sad occasion, as Terry died on November 20, 2019. Hospitalized in August of that year with unbearable shoulder pain brought on by a broken neck that was caused by a malignant tumor that had eaten away his vertebrae, Terry was visited often by Billy, who recorded him while there. At the same time, he was working on Head in a Bird Cage, partly due to Terry’s insistence on knowing how the record was progressing. Only one song, “Sun Is Beaming,” was written after Terry’s hospitalization, but he’s sampled in some way on all of the 14 tracks, with his presence felt throughout. Fans of ONO and Wolf Eyes should take note. Rest easy, Terry Turtle. You’ll definitely be missed. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Marianne Faithfull, The Montreux Years (BMG) This live in Montreux series kicked off earlier this year with sets devoted to Nina Simone and Etta James, their contents assembled from numerous performances spanning decades to provide a thorough overview. This spotlight on the consistently undervalued Faithfull is a welcome shift of gears. While the timeframe is tighter here, spanning 1995-2009, the contents still feel comprehensive, as the selections are drawn from five different shows, staring out with a version of Van’s “Madame George” that’s followed by a guitar heavy extended version of “Broken English” that’s an absolute treat. Not everything here thrills me. I enjoyed Faithfull’s spoken intro to “Song For Nico” more than the song itself, for instance, but right after “Broken English” is the wonderful “Times Square, and then we’re back to Broken English the album with “Guilt.” Other highlights include “Sister Morphine” and versions of Duke Ellington’s “Solitude” (a nod to Billie Holliday and Leonard Cohen’s “Tower of Song.” Faithfull’s engagement puts this set over the top. A-

Muddy Waters, The Montreux Years (BMG) I’ve no way to know for sure, but I suspect I’ve listened to Muddy Waters more than any other blues artist. With that said, I’ll confess to dipping into the man’s post-1960s material only on occasion, with this installment in the Montreux Years series the deepest dive I’ve taken into his ’70s stuff in quite a while. The songs derive from four performances dating from ’72-’77, and possibly because he was playing for more refined and knowledgeable audiences (at least hypothetically), the approach isn’t as aggressively raw as it is on the studio album Hard Again, which is just fine by me, as the tunes here extend pretty naturally from the sound of Muddy’s stronger ’60s albums, rather than trying to impress the rock crowd; at least that’s the impression I’m always left with whenever I return to the Johnny Winter-produced Blue Sky albums (of which Hard Again was the first). Naturally, a bunch of his most well-known songs are here, but often with distinctive execution. “Mannish Boy” is a prime example. But a handful of deep cuts nicely weaved into the program. A-

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Graded on a Curve: New in Stores for August 2021, Part Three

Part three of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for August 2021. Part one is here and part two is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: James McMurtry, The Horses and the Hounds (New West) There isn’t a lot of elbow room in the scene McMurtry inhabits, specifically the country-folk-Americana-roots rock singer-songwriter zone, but frankly very few do it better, with his stature in a crowded field only amplified by a six-year break between releases. How’s he do it? Well, he and his band play bright but rugged, and more importantly, his tunes are consistently strong. That McMurtry, the son of prolific (and recently passed) novelist Larry McMurtry, doesn’t do autobiography (as quoted in a recent Rolling Stone article), certainly helps, though even more crucially, his songs avoid the staleness of creative-writing class cliché. And it makes a big difference that he’s open to taking chances, with none bigger than “Ft. Walton Wake-Up Call,” a sort of talking storyteller ditty where McMurtry flirts with sounding like C.W. McCall but ends up pulling it off, mainly through astute observations; likewise, “Operation Never Mind.” At this stage, I dig the anthemic up-tempo rocker “What’s the Matter” best, but the record doesn’t falter. A-

Thalia Zedek Band, Perfect Vision (Thrill Jockey) Entering her fifth decade making music (having debuted on wax as part of Dangerous Birds in the early ’80s), guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter Zedek’s latest exhibits no signs of creative fatigue. To the contrary, Perfect Vision underscores her adaptability, as it was recorded remotely due to (you guessed it) the pandemic. Operating in this manner allowed for a wide array of guest contributors. There’s Karan Zarkisian on pedal steel, Brian Carpenter on trumpet, and cellist (and Zedek’s labelmate) Alison Chesley aka Helen Money. And of course, there are familiar elements, including her regular collaborator, violist David Michael Curry, plus her bandmate in the outfit E, drummer Gavin McCarthy, but most recognizable is the tough and assured expressiveness of the singing and the distinctive way the songs unwind. Fully capable of writing catchy tunes, Zedek’s focus encompasses the layering of textures, the juxtaposition of timbres and the tension that builds through methodical repetition. In short, it’s another sweet record from Thalia Zedek. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Richard Hell and the Voidoids, Destiny Street (Complete), Destiny Street Remixed, & Destiny Street Demos (Omnivore) The first of these titles is a 2CD set that includes the contents of the second and third, both vinyl sets. In addition, the 2CD opens with a remastered version of the original Destiny Street, the second album by Hell and the Voidoids, a record that’s mix Hell has hated since the album’s release in 1981. It’s followed on the first CD by Destiny Street Repaired, which featured guitarists Bill Frisell, Marc Ribot, and Voidoid Ivan Julian overdubbing guitar in place of original Destiny Street guitarists Robert Quine (who passed in 2004) and Naux (Juan Marciel) (whose death occurred in 2009), with Hell singing the tracks anew. Destiny Street Repaired was made possible by the then recent discovery of the tape holding the original album’s rhythm tracks, while in 2019, three of the four Destiny Street masters, long thought lost, were discovered, allowing Hell (with the aid of Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs) to finally remix the record to his satisfaction.

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Graded on a Curve: New in Stores for August 2021, Part Two

Part two of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for August 2021. Part one is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Lung, Come Clean Right Now (Sofaburn) On the Cincinnati-based Lung’s third album (and the first I’ve heard), the sound reminds me quite a bit of the Alt-indie-grunge ’90s. This will surely not be an enticing proposition for some, but let me add that the lineup consists of cellist-vocalist Kate Wakefield and drummer Daisy Caplan. Other than some guest vocals on “Wave” by Paige Beller, it’s just the two of them throughout, which lends distinctiveness to the record to be sure, though it’s impressive how stretches of Come Clean Right Now conjure the heavy forward motion of a full band. Seriously, a couple times I thought of Helmet, and once, Lung’s thud even brought the Melvins to mind. They complement the rumble and pound with songwriting and singing that’s decidedly art-rocky, but to circle back, in a very ’90s way. The record is also a consistently strong listen, likely because it’s not too fucking long, which is a ’90s-era facet they wisely haven’t adopted. That makes Come Clean Right Now a far more satisfying listen than a whole lot of records people are known to swoon over nostalgically. A-  

Los Psychosis, Rock and Roll Dreams (Black & Wyatt) Featuring Javi Arcega on lead vocals and guitar, the Memphis-based Los Psychosis came to me described as Latinx psychobilly, which I’ll confess had me a little worried purely in genre terms, as most psychobilly is about as personally appealing as getting a can of baked beans shoved up my ass. I’m not talking about The Cramps, a band that I adore, and who I don’t consider to be psychobilly, anyway. For that matter, Los Psychosis don’t remind me of psychobilly either, as they are far too stylistically broad, while keeping a firm handle on the rootsy and also punked-up spit and fire. There’s a swampy aura to much of this set leading me to suggest that fans of The Gun Club and The Flesh Eaters will find Rock and Roll Dreams to their liking, but additionally, the druggy quality of tunes like “Hoppin and Jumpin” and “Ana” tempts me to call this psychedelic-billy, which is a sound I totally support. Plus, “Dionysus Wave” hits like a self-released new wave single from ’79, and “El Vacio” delivers some scuzzy Tex-Mex action. Some of the singing even reminds me of Darby. Weeee! A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Hocine Chaoui, Ouechesma (Outre National) This and the record directly below are the first releases on this label out of Montreuil, a commune located in an eastern suburb of Paris, though there is a connection to a distribution company of the same name that handles such heavyweights as Subline Frequencies, Superior Viaduct, and Akuphone. This LP delivers a remastered version of a cassette that was first released by Oriental Music Production, a French-based Algerian label (now defunct but with a slew of tapes still available), that specialized in reissuing some of the country’s regional output from the ’70s and ’80s. Like this killer serving of the Berber style known as Chaoui, which originated in the Aurès region of Algeria, first recorded in the ’30s and updated here by Hocine Chaoui with drum machines and modern production. The driving nature of the programmed rhythms intensifies a style of music that was clearly quite powerful already. Along the way, horn lines fervently wiggle as the singing is appropriately emphatic. Altogether a fine kickoff to Outre National’s discography. A-

Henri Guédon, Karma (Outre National) This is the first-time vinyl reissue of a 1975 LP, the second album from Guédon, a versatile artist (musician, painter, sculptor) from the Caribbean island of Martinique. With Karma, Guédon cooks up a potent dish of Latin Jazz that’s noted for its frequent injections of vintage synth, courtesy of Jaky Bernard. While this aspect of the band’s overall thrust is undeniably dated, that’s not to the album’s detriment. To the contrary, those spacy reverberations (splurts and flatulence that wouldn’t be out of place on the soundtrack to a late-’70s exploitation flick) do add significant value, though without the band’s collective rhythmic moxie and Michel Pacguit’s skills at the keyboard, the synth would be little more than a novelty. Along with leading the band and adding percussion on a variety of instruments (from cowbell to balafon), Guédon sings, and if he’s not a powerhouse vocalist, he gets the job done. This was originally released on the La Voix Du Globe label out of Paris, where it flew under the radar a bit, it seems. In other words, this is a worthy reissue. A-

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Graded on a Curve: New in Stores for August 2021, Part One

Part one of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for August 2021. 

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Moritz von Oswald Trio, Dissent (Modern Recordings) Having hit the scene as a member of the noteworthy Neue Deutsche Welle outfit Palais Schaumburg, Moritz von Oswald is best known for his contributions to electronic music, and techno in particular. He is also an adept collaborator, with his musical partners including his Palais Schaumburg bandmate Thomas Fehlmann (as 2MB), Eddie Fowlkes (with Fehlmann as 3MB), Mark Ernestus (in Basic Channel and Rhythm & Sound), and in previous versions of the Moritz von Oswald Trio, Max Loderbauer, Vladislav Delay, and Tony Allen. This lineup of the trio features Laurel Halo on keyboards and Heinrich Köbberling on drums, with von Oswald handling string keyboards, drum programming and synthesizer. Consisting of ten chapters with a prologue and epilogue, Dissent blends aspects of techno and jazz (specifically, the heartier side of fusion), and late in the sequence dub and hand drumming, with the results bringing to mind post-rock, and for a few brief moments, even Jon Hassell. Deftly executed and always interesting, often superb. A-

Xordox, Omniverse (Editions Mego) Born in Melbourne, Australia and musically active since around 1980, JG Thirlwell has been long based in NYC, with a fair amount of his output, particularly early on, sneeringly attitudinal in a manner fitting that locale in its pre-gentrified state. A notable collaboration (with Lydia Lunch and Thurston Moore) was called Stinkfist. More prominent was his multi-album, varyingly titled Foetus project. I bring all this up because against the odds, Thirlwell has adapted pretty damn well as a musician to what I’ll call late middle age, all while retaining his edge. This isn’t a new development, as the guy has chalked up numerous credits as a composer (fans of The Venture Bros. and Archer know his work), but it’s still worth mentioning in relation to his second album as Xordox, wherein the cinematic synthesizer vistas do acquire undercurrents and even explosive flashes of menace, and with one exception, without vocals. That Thirlwell can bring fresh twists to the dystopian is worth celebrating. So is the life and work of Editions Mego’s Peter Rehberg, who passed on July 22. RIP. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Willie Colón & Rubén Blades, Siembra (Craft) If you’re attuned to the history of salsa, you know this 1978 LP. It was for a long stretch the biggest selling salsa album of all time. The album is also an artistic standout, which means that budding enthusiasts of the style who’ve been snatching up Craft Recording’s Fania Records reissues have another appointment with the cash register. Siembra has all the basses covered, and more. Blades, who’d been the vocalist in Ray Barretto’s band, really comes into his own on the second of his four collab albums with Colón, not only singing but also writing all but one of the record’s seven selections, with the Kurt Weill- Bertolt Brecht-inspired “Pedro Navaja” a particular standout. But Colón’s contribution as musical director, producer and trombonist is just as vital. From the sweet disco fake out at the beginning of the record’s opener “Plástico” to the string-loaded closing title track, this baby brings the heat. One needn’t be fluent in the language to grasp the ambitiousness, and the mastery, that’s on display throughout. A

Eye Q, Please the Nation (Now-Again Reserve) This is the August 2021 installment in the Now-Again label’s Vinyl Reserve series, available to subscribers as a 2LP, its contents collecting the singles, the rare album Beginning, and unreleased material (culled from master tapes) from this ’70s band from Zimbabwe (then known as Rhodesia), formed by guitarist Cuthbert Maziwa, with the focus on ’70s Western rock. For those familiar with the roughly contemporaneous Zambian rock (or Zamrock) of W.I.T.C.H. and the Ngozi Family, that there was a Zimbabwean equivalent might not register a surprise. Indeed, folks might already be hip to the Zimbabwean rock (aka Zim heavy) specialists Wells Fargo, whose singles from ’76-’77 were compiled by Now-Again in 2016 as Watch Out! These 28 tracks make a fine companion volume. Like Wells Fargo and the Zamrock acts above, Eye Q focused on original material, and if they were undeniably impacted by Hendrix, Sabbath, Deep Purple etc., their groove-infused riff-laden style won’t be mistaken for any of their influences. Fun, all the way through. A-

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores for
July 2021, Part Five

Part five of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for July 2021. Part one is here, part two is here, part three is here, and part four is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Ruth Mascelli, A Night at the Baths (Disciples) This the solo debut from New Orleans-based Mascelli, who’s noted as part of Special Interest, an outfit, unheard by me, that’s tagged as a combo of no wave, glam, and industrial, frankly very enticing, but right now there’s this LP to consider, which is described as progressing from Mascelli’s electronically focused output as Psychic Hotline (that I’ve also not heard). To elaborate, A Night at the Baths is inspired by techno, acid house and ambient, with Mascelli explaining further that the album is an “audio diary” of their experiences in “various bathhouses, dark rooms, and gay clubs” while touring with Special Interest and traveling alone. Crafted so that each track is representative of an individual room or space, parts of this, such as opener “Sauna” and “Libidinal Surplus,” unfurled about how I expected (both are dancefloor thumpers), but as Mascelli is skilled and inventive, that’s in no way a negative. Other cuts, such as the spacy “Hydrotherapy” and the ’70s surrealism of “Missing Men,” divert from the anticipated very nicely. A-

koleżanka, Place Is (Bar/None) Brooklyn-based Kristina Moore used to be in Triathalon, but she’s currently devoting herself exclusively to this project, writing and singing the songs and playing the guitar as Ark Calkins assists on bass and drums. koleżanka can be tagged as art-pop, though the sound moves around a good bit, ranging from dreamy to electronics-tinged (synths and a drum machine are involved) to even soulful. A few of her songs thrive on directness suggesting that in a better world, they’d be hits, specifically early track “$40.” Moore has a powerful voice well-suited for the foreground as she delivers the occasional high-note flourish, but she seems more invested in making her album instrumentally interesting, which is admirable, even as the songs don’t always end up where I’d prefer them. The key is that she avoids bad decisions. But “Vegan Sushi,” which reminds me of Stereolab, could’ve lasted for another four minutes (it’s over in under two and half, waaaa), and lands in a highly enjoyable place. Strong for a debut, and very smart. B+

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Obits, Die at the Zoo (Outer Battery) Featuring singing guitarists Rick Froberg and Sohrab Habibion, bassist Greg Simpson and drummer Alexis Fleisig (who replaced Scott Gursky in 2011), Brooklyn’s Obits broke up in 2015, with their final studio album Bed and Bugs released two years prior. This live recording (a dozen songs on the vinyl, with the full 15 offered via accompanying download) captures a long set from Brisbane, Australia in 2012, and it’s a sharp, energetic affair. Before Obits, Froberg was in San Diego stalwarts Drive Like Jehu and Hot Snakes, as Habibion and Fleisig were members of DC’s Edsel, credits that highlight a background in both post-hardcore and beefy garage-punkish rock with a touch of the Stooges thrown in. In 2021, this guitar-centric and rhythmically hefty sound is quite welcome, and that it derives from a band of savvy vets makes it even better. That Outer Battery didn’t just dump this on wax by shaving off the last three tracks is indicative of the overall quality; ‘tis also a very attractive thing, on yellow wax (the pink is sold out). A-

Kippie Moketsi & Hal Singer, Blue Stompin’ (We Are Busy Bodies / The Sun) South African saxophonist Moketsi was a groundbreaking member of the Jazz Epistles alongside Abdullah Ibrahim, Hugh Masekela, and Jonas Gwangwa. US saxophonist Singer played in the bands of Jay McShann, Oran “Hot Lips” Page, Roy Eldridge and many others, and in 1959 Singer cut an LP for Prestige with Charlie Shavers’ band titled Blue Stompin’, its opening composition also commencing this album, played in 1974 while Singer was in South Africa on a State Department tour. It the best of the four tracks on this reissue of an LP originally released in ’77 by The Sun label. It’s also the only cut to feature Singer, just so you know. The other selections by Moketsi’s band, if not quite as strong, are worthwhile enough to make this a desirable item. Note that as of this writing, there are 14 remaining for purchase on Bandcamp (copies are also available in stores). Moketsi opens “Blue Stompin’” wonderfully, all by himself. The full band’s groove thereafter is a swank reminder that Singer hit #1 on the R&B chart in 1948 with “Corn Bread.”  A-

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores for
July 2021, Part Four

Part four of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for July 2021. Part one is here, part two is here, and part three is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Anika, Change (Sacred Bones) Anika is the recording and performance moniker of British-German musician Annika Henderson, who is probably best known for her self-titled full-length debut from 2010, a record that featured three members of Beak>, including Geoff Burrow (also of Portishead). Although recordings have been plentiful since (EPs, singles, guest spots, the band Exploded View, longer collabs including with techno producer Dave Clarke and more recently Shackleton), this is her proper follow-up to Anika, and its nine tracks are thoroughly inspired. As Change combines electronic textures (she is currently based in Berlin) with rock muscularity and edge (specifically post-punk and ’90s Alternative), that this record lacks any serious missteps is borderline extraordinary. Another big plus is how Anika’s socially conscious lyrics avoid the trite, which shouldn’t be surprising as prior to music she was a political journalist. Uninitiated listeners into PJ Harvey and Jehnny Beth should investigate, though Anika is firmly in command of her own musical voice. A-

Celia Hollander, Timekeeper (Leaving) Prior to putting out music under her full name (of which this is her second release, following last year’s “Recent Futures” EP, also on Leaving), Los Angeles-based electro-acoustic composer Hollander used the moniker $3.33 for a handful of releases, mostly on cassette and digital. But Timekeeper is on vinyl (as was “Recent Futures”), either on limited black (400) and even more limited temporal blue (100), and it’ll be of particular interest to listeners attuned to experimentation that’s methodically rendered. Each of the dozen tracks has a time of day for a title, as Hollander has set out to chart how energetic and emotional fluctuations form a sense of time that’s in constant flux. Utilizing acoustic recordings and digital synthesis, there are three compositional types here: temporal fields (which are expansive and unpredictable), waves (swelling momentums), or ropes (singular linearity). As the record plays, it is surely ascertainable which compositions are which, but the progress is never transitionally jarring. To the contrary, thematic cohesiveness is abundant. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Alice Coltrane, Kirtan: Turiya Sings (Impulse! /UMe) Aficionados of the late and very great keyboardist, composer, bandleader and teacher Alice Coltrane might know of Turiya Sings, the extremely rare collection of devotional music she recorded in 1982. It was released on cassette in a small number by the Avatar Book Institute after Coltrane fulfilled her Warners contract and essentially retired from the commercial music scene. But this is not that tape. Indeed, Turiya Sings has never been officially reissued (it has been bootlegged and unsurprisingly circulates online; originals are expensive). However, Kirtan: Turiya Sings does derive from the same period, and in fact offers the same songs in the same sequence, but with Coltrane singing and playing Wurlitzer organ only (the ’82 release version added synthesizer and strings). It’s been a long time since I listened to Turiya Sings, and while I considered seeking it out for a compare and contrast, the warmth and beauty of this set brought on a quick reevaluation of my priorities. Another layer of Alice Coltrane brilliance is revealed. A

The Gun Club, Fire of Love Deluxe Edition (Blixa Sounds) Originally released in 1981, Fire of Love stands as The Gun Club’s finest record. I’ve already opined enthusiastically on its contents for this website in a full review easily findable by searching the archives, but this set delivers an extremely worthwhile expansion, though the specifics differ a little by format. Blixa Sound’s 2LP pairs the original album with the never before released live set from Club 88 on March 6, 1981. The 2CD sequences five alternate versions and five four-track demos (all ten previously unreleased) after the album’s 11 selections on the first disc and drops the live show onto the second. But the vinyl includes a download with the CD’s extras, so fret not; you’ll get to hear it all. And it’s a cinch that any fan of this band will want to spend quality time with whole shebang, as those versions and demos are totally worthy and the live set, with good sound, truly rips. Featuring Jeffrey Lee Pierce in prime form and produced by Chris D., the core album is a potent batch of twisted roots magnificence, an essential part of any punk collection. A+

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores for
July 2021, Part Three

Part three of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for July 2021. Part one is here and part two is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Sarah Wilson, Kaleidoscope (Brass Tonic) The music of composer, trumpeter, and singer Sarah Wilson is new to me, as I was drawn to check out this CD, her third, due to the participation of pianist Myra Melford. I’m thankful that Wilson keeps good company, for Kaleidoscope is a total gem that resists tidy encapsulation. First off, there’s the distinctive instrumental makeup of Wilson’s horn, Charles Burnham’s violin, John Schott’s guitar, Melford’s piano, Jerome Harris’ bass, and Matt Wilson’s drums, and ensemble play that’s highly skilled yet warm and playful. Second, is the record’s reality as a tribute to numerous mentors, including Melford. This doesn’t portend a relaxed atmosphere, but that’s just what unwinds across 11 Wilson compositions and a cover of M. Ward’s “Lullaby + Exile.” Third, is that Wilson fortifies a jazz foundation with pastoral elements, a calypso twist, and graceful pop turns, with the piano-based vocal beauty “Young Woman” a standout. That Wilson’s musical journey eludes norms echoes the music’s transcendence of boundaries and strengthens its unforced positivity. A

A Place To Bury Strangers, “Hologram” EP (Dedstrange) Formed in 2002 and based in Brooklyn, A Place to Bury Strangers has been shaped by numerous hands, but with vocalist and guitarist Oliver Ackermann a constant since 2003. With this 5-song EP, he inaugurates a fresh lineup with John Fedowitz on bass and Sandra Fedowitz on drums, and their handiwork is raucous and shoegazey, as befits the band’s reputation. To expand a bit, APTBS (as is the common abbreviation) have been described as “the loudest band in New York,” and listening to their stuff, it’s never been difficult to comprehend this claim. The records jut sound loud as fuck, even when played at reasonable volume. The distortion is also thicker than what’s heard on many other shoegaze affiliated albums (Ackermann is noted for designing guitar pedals through his company Death by Audio), which is a big point in their favor, as is songwriting that continues to remind me of The Jesus and Mary Chain. But what’s maybe most impressive is how inspired this new lineup sounds so deep into the band’s existence. A total keeper. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Roy Hargrove and Mulgrew Miller, In Harmony (Resonance) Trumpeter-flugelhornist Hargrove and pianist Miller are primarily associated with post-bop, and particularly with the style’s reemergence in the 1980s, this return growing into a movement that was soon tagged as neo-traditionalist jazz. And I’ll confess that the neo-trad scene has never really been my forte, partly due to my love of free jazz and associated subgenres. Post-bop has additionally been a major part of my jazz diet, but I’ve tended to gravitate toward the originators and the vastness of their output, of which dozens of albums remain that I’ve yet to hear. But there’s really no denying the richness of these live recordings from 2006-’07, as they feature just Hargrove and Miller, the duo configuration magnifying their interactive skills and also their taste, as they deliver a dozen interpretations (there is only one original, Hargrove’s “Blues for Mr. Hill,” a highlight) on 2LP for RSD and on 2CD, with the whole documenting a shared passion for their chosen artform. Up to Resonance’s usual standard? You bet. A

Joseph Spence, Encore: Unheard Recordings of Bahamian Guitar and Singing (Smithsonian Folkways) The music of the great Bahamian guitarist and vocalist Joseph Spence is brilliant, but not exactly plentiful; beginning in 1958, his sessions and live performances were issued by Folkways, Elektra, Arhoolie, and Rounder, totaling six LPs (excluding compilations). Highly influential yet impossible to duplicate, any new recordings by Spence are cause for celebration, so get ready to whoop and holler as this set (CD out July 16 with the vinyl scheduled for October) offers material captured impeccably in New York and Nassau in the Bahamas by engineer and producer Peter Siegel (who is also responsible for the contents of Smithsonian Folkways’ recent release Doc Watson and Gaither Carlton). While the songs aren’t as flowing and infectious as the stuff he cut in ’58 for Folkways, this is still prime Spence, offering distinct versions of well-known tunes (notably “Bimini Gal”), two new songs and vocals from the Pindar Family (including Spence’s sister Edith). Altogether, one of 2021’s sweetest surprises. A

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores for
July 2021, Part Two

Part two of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for July 2021. Part one is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Les Filles de Illighadad, At Pioneer Works (Sahel Sounds) Six tracks, recorded live in Brooklyn in the Fall of 2019, and it’s an absolute joy, delivering a needed tonic for the heart and mind. Founded in 2016 in the village of Illighadad in Niger by Fatou Seidi Ghali, who is cited as the first Tuareg women to play guitar professionally (she also sings), and vocalist Alamnou Akrouni (also a handy percussionist), Les Filles de Illighadad also features guitarist-percussionist Amaria Hamadalher. Their chosen name translates as The Girls of Illighadad, though on tour (and so it is on this recording), they are joined by Ghali’s brother Abdoulaye Madassane with additional guitar and vocals. That’s beaucoup string bending (and yes, a lot of singing), so fans of Tuareg desert blues will not be disappointed (there are two earlier LPs cut for Sahel Sounds), but what’s especially notable is how the group combines the rhythm-focused music of tende, which is traditionally played by women, with the guitar, as traditionally played by men, meaning this is a living, growing, inspirational sound. Another Sahel Sounds home run. A

Colin Cannon, McGolrick (Infrequent Seams) It’s always a good idea to play some catch-up ball with the wares of Brooklyn’s Infrequent Seams label. This set by guitarist-composer-bandleader Cannon came out in February, but as there is a vinyl option (combined with a CD, download and poster) currently available, coverage, if belated, is still warranted. I’ll confess that prior to listening, the release’s title inspired unshakable visions of a 1970s TV show focused on a tough, possibly rule-breaking, cop, but no, Cannon’s inspiration and articulated theme was his daily reality in a small Brooklyn neighborhood in the days leading up to the pandemic. Musically, Cannon’s influences are pretty wide-ranging, but as the set unwinds, the impact of the cited handful of prog-rock and jazz-fusion heavyweights, while perceptible, shakes out a little differently than expected, which definitely works in the record’s favor. In adding strings and horns to his core band, McGolrick occasionally sounds like, but more often just recalls in terms of ambition, Sufjan Stevens circa Illinois. These similarities are wholly positive. A-

Julian Sartorius, Locked Grooves (-OUS) As the title relates, this is a vinyl release featuring locked grooves, 112 of them in fact, 56 on side one and as many on the flip. There is also a digital version offering all 112 grooves running for exactly one minute each, which is the source for this review. Unlike From Here to Infinity, Lee Ranaldo’s lock groove solo debut from 1987, there is no CD option available. Also, as the creation of one man, a highly skilled drummer playing a prepared kit, this differs from RRRecords’ 100th release (a 7-inch with 100 locked grooves) and 500th release (an LP with 500), which were sourced from various artists in the neighborhood of the noise u-ground circa 1993 and 1998 respectively, with the intent of harnessing a substantial portion of that scene’s essence and diversity. Contrasting, Sartorius’ endeavor is a personal statement. Looked grooves can become rhythmic by their very nature, but this is an extended excursion into multilayered beat loops (which on wax can last as long as one wants), throwing light on Sartorius’ ability and dishing a plethora of possibilities. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICK: Philip Tabane and his Malombo Jazzman, The Indigenous Afro-Jazz Sounds of (We Are Busy Bodies) Here’s a totally worthy reissue of the debut LP by the highly regarded South African guitarist and bandleader. Originally released in 1969 on the Atlantic City label, it was reissued a couple times, once in the ’70s and again a decade later, but until now never outside South Africa. Now, if you’re thinking we are mirroring We Are Busy Bodies’ reproduction of a typo on the cover, that’s incorrect, as the record features Tabane on guitar, pennywhistle and vocals, with Gabriel “Sonnyboy” Thobejane on drums and thumb piano, making the cover exactly right, except that the music diverts from what many listeners will expect when Afro-Jazz is mentioned. It’s also worthy of note that Tabane sets down the guitar and picks up that flute for long stretches here as Thobejane’s thumb piano takes on a very music-boxy quality. But even if this falls outside of expectations, the playing is magnificent, and the contents aren’t easily compared to anything else. It’s also selling out quick, and there is no digital. A-

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores for
July 2021, Part One

Part one of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for July 2021.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Ches Smith and We All Break, Path of Seven Colors (Pyroclastic) To begin, We All Break is a group formed in 2013 by drummer Smith that intermingles traditional Haitian Vodou music with decidedly contemporary compositional and improvisational elements. Path of Seven Colors is a 2CD set offering the recording of the title (made in February of 2020) along with a bonus disc, We All Break, which is the group’s first album (from 2015). Both are housed in a hardshell box with notes, lyrics, and annotated track info. The two recordings are marked by substantial differences, with the first featuring a quartet of piano (Matt Mitchell), rhythm and vocals (Smith, Daniel Brevil, and Markus Schwartz) as the second doubles the size of the contributors with vocals (Sirene Dantor Rene), alto sax (Miguel Zenón), bass (Nick Dunston), and more rhythm (Fanfan Jean-Guy Rene). Unsurprisingly, the newer recording possesses greater vividness and depth in consort with an increase of ambitiousness, but it’s not like the early material is embryonic. Fire and flow are constants in this beautiful evolution. A

Molly Lewis,The Forgotten Edge” EP (Jagjaguwar) Based in Los Angeles by way of Australia, Lewis is a whistler of uncommon skill, though her debut recording is designed less as a showcase of her abilities and is instead more of an extended homage to Exotica, and with a culminating nod to Morricone, or more accurately to his whistler, Alessandro Alessandroni. While the grass skirt and tiki torch vibes are strong, with the atmosphere boosted considerably by the instrumental backing, without Lewis this would be an enjoyable but thoroughly retro affair. However, as she’s fully accounted for, the proceedings get deepened through clear seriousness of intent. Similar to Ìxtahuele, she eschews the ironic and never plays up the kitsch angle. And most important, she’s just really good at whistling (there are also wordless vocals). Also of note is “Satin Curtains,” which delivers a ’70s Euro soundtrack atmosphere that’s distinct from Morricone (or the maestro’s work for Leone, at least), instead sounding like an extract from a score to a stylish giallo or a gritty poliziotteschi. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: V/A, The Last Shall Be First: The JCR Records Story Vol. 2 (Bible & Tire Recording Co.) This is the promised follow-up volume to a highly acclaimed and eye-opening collection issued last year by the label of Bruce Watson (known as a producer and for his role in the operations of the Fat Possum and Big Legal Mess imprints), which spotlights 17 more tracks taken from reels discovered in a dilapidated shack on the outskirts of Olive Branch, MS, with the sounds as pleasing and diverse as what came before. Recorded in Memphis in the 1970s, the playing remains stripped-down but sharp, the singing as fervent as you’d expect from a style Watson calls sacred soul, and the recording quality is full-bodied and assured (but never over-polished) by Juan D. Shipp, who ran JCR as a subsidiary of his larger D-Vine Spirituals label. Folks with a love for Tompkins Square’s gospel box sets and Big Legal Mess’s retrospectives into the Designer and Pitch/Gusman labels have likely already bought Vol. 1 and now this. But for anybody looking to dip a toe in roots gospel, this is a fine place to start. A

V/A, Greg Belson’s Divine Funk: Rare American Gospel Soul and Funk (Cultures of Soul) This set, available on LP, CD and digital (though I’ve been told the wax is the victim of pressing plant delays) is a nice complement to The Last Shall Be First, but there’s also some welcome distinctiveness, and that’s mainly because the songs collected here by gospel authority Belson (fan, collector, DJ) are substantially more urban in their thrust. As we’re talking funk, this shouldn’t be a shock to the system, especially as these dozen tracks serve as a follow-up to the prior two Belson-compiled Divine Disco volumes released by Cultures of Soul. The good news is that, as the recording budgets were obviously small, none of Belson’s choices falter into the slick, but even better, the selections regularly rise above standard funk moves. In fact, The Wearyland Singers’ “If You See Me Doing Wrong,” with its cranking organ, manic vocal interplay, and unrelenting rhythm foundation, elevates matters far above typical funky maneuvering. But again, nothing is subpar, so funkateers of any belief system should step right up. A-

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores for
June 2021, Part Four

Part four of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for June 2021. Part one is here, part two is here, and part three is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog, Hope (Northern Spy) Last October, this trio (Marc Ribot on guitar and vocals, Shahzad Ismaily on bass and keyboards with backing vocals, Ches Smith on drums, percussion and electronics with backing vocals) released the pandemic EP “What I Did on My Long Vacation,” a strong set notable for being studio recorded in May of 2020, but with heavy precautions, as everyone was set up in separate rooms (none of the three actually laid eyes on each other while recording). Well, that CD (now sold out) was effectively a teaser for this full-length behemoth (available June 25 on 2LP and CD), which was the byproduct of the same May sessions. It extends Ceramic Dog’s focus on matters social and political very nicely, though this characteristic isn’t as strident as it is on 2018’s YRU Still Here? Saxophonist Darius Jones returns from the EP, bringing the skronk and helping to reinforce the group’s blend of avant-jazz and punk rock. Ceramic Dog is made up of exceptionally gifted players, but just as important is their constant avoidance of the stale. A-

Lucy Gooch, “Rain’s Break” (Fire) This recording was inspired by the technicolor films of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, which isn’t exactly common. The best known prior example is Kate Bush’s 1993 album The Red Shoes, a fact doubly germane here, as Gooch, who’s based in Bristol, UK (originally from Norfolk) and a recent arrival on the scene (there is a prior EP, “Rushing,” dating from last year), has been likened to Bush. Listening to “Rain’s Break” (available on vinyl and CD with a gorgeous cover) reveals an ethereality that supports the comparison, though the similarities are never overpowering. This is partly because Gooch is operating with just a synth and her voice, rather than drawing on a wide array of instruments (often in the hands of an all-star supporting cast) as Bush regularly did in the shaping of her discography. However, Gooch’s work is bright, sturdy and unpredictable; she’s been additionally compared to Bjork, Julianna Barwick, and Mary Lattimore, but upon consideration, I don’t think I’d have come to those conclusions on my own. Assured and promising. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Dyke & the Blazers, Down on Funky Broadway: Phoenix 1966–1967 & I Got a Message: Hollywood 1968–1970 (Craft Recordings) Led by Arlester “Dyke” Christian and based in Phoenix, AZ (with roots in Buffalo, NY), Dyke & the Blazers are responsible for one of the essential funk music building blocks with the 1967 two-part single “Funky Broadway.” Now, many will recognize the song through Wilson Pickett’s version, which arrived shortly thereafter and overtook the original on the charts, hitting #1 R&B and rising to #8 Pop (Dyke & the Blazers peaked at #17 and #65, respectively), but as is often the case, the superior version came out first, though as pointed out by Alec Palao in his notes for the first of these two volumes, there is a lack of finesse in Dyke’s raw belting and the Blazer’s relentless combination of density and velocity, so that the whole was likely just too potent to attain smash hit status.

Being overtaken by Atlantic’s powerhouse national distribution was surely another factor in the single’s moderate chart showing, but I’ll reemphasize that Dyke & the Blazers’ approach, in a manner akin to James Brown & the JB’s (who were obviously influenced by “Funky Broadway”), was just too much for many to handle. And listening to these two collections in 2021, it might still be that way. The material on Phoenix in particular documents a band that’s variations on a template are tackled without concern for stylistic breadth (Dyke essentially didn’t do ballads, with “I’m So All Alone” an exception). The move to Hollywood did usher in some refinements as the studio players shifted to the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band, but there is still a focus on collective power and grit over individualist flair (the lack of solos is striking, and the drums smack hard). But the fine-tuning in terms of arrangements does magnify Dyke’s limitations as a frontman, but he’s never short on emotion. I rate both sets as essential for budding soul and funk collectors. The Phoenix stuff is just massive… A-/A-

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores for
June 2021, Part Three

Part three of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for June 2021. Part one is here and part two is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Hprizm, Signs Remixed (Positive Elevation / 577) MC and producer Hprizm, aka High Priest, is well-known as a founding member of Antipop Consortium, one of the cornerstone groups in avant-hip-hop’s turn of the century explosion. Antipop hasn’t released a record since 2009, but Hprizm’s Magnetic Memory came out on the Don Giovanni label in 2018, and he’s following it up with an album remixing Signs, the terrific debut recording of electronic music from crucial contempo avant-jazz drummer Gerald Cleaver, which came out last year on 577. The art of remixing can run the gamut of quality from inventive reinterpretations (that largely retain some semblance of recognizability) to autopilot hackery. Thankfully, in Hprizm’s hands, Cleaver’s pieces serve as a springboard toward invigorating possibilities. Now, if you’re expecting an infusion of slamming beats, please understand that Hprizm’s approach is broad and often abstract (in keeping with Cleaver’s source work). It’s altogether a captivating listen, but I’m especially fond of the throbbing tension in “AKA Radiator.” A

Gerald Cleaver, Griots (Positive Elevation / 577) Signs Remixed is being purposely released in conjunction with Griots, Cleaver’s second excursion into modular electronics, with both issued by 577’s new sublabel, Positive Elevation (“dedicated to electronic experimentation and avant soul.”). Although the majority of Griots’ 11 pieces are titled after individuals of significance to the New Yorker by way of Detroit (e.g. “Cooper-Moore,” “Victor Lewis,” “Geri Allen,” “William Parker”), Cleaver clarifies that this isn’t a tribute record, with his point well taken, as the contents maintain a consistently higher level of quality than most tributes. Rather than assuming that expressions of admiration will transform through sincerity into 30 minutes to an hour of worthwhile listening, Cleaver instead lets his inspirations (which include the Detroit jazz collective Tribe and Faruq Z. Bey of the Motown jazz group Griot Galaxy) serve as a starting point for a deeper delve into electronic territory, with an emphasis on the Motor City techno of his youth. Griots is an acknowledgement of roots, with its sounds vital and unpredictable. A

Assorted Orchids, S/T (Whale Watch) Assorted Orchids is the recording moniker of Massachusetts native T. McWilliams, and this is his debut, though I’ll note that he’s 35 years old, so there’s a steadiness (that life experience can bring) tangible throughout this succinct recording’s ten tracks. Fingerpicking is also consistently in the foreground, but McWilliams hits those steel and nylon strings hard, with this aspect of his sound intensified by the album’s depth of fidelity. I’ll add that guitar and vocals (his singing as prominent in the mix as the picking) are Assorted Orchids’ main ingredients, with Mississippi John Hurt, Donovan, and Nick Drake cited as influences. In terms of overall sound, he’s much closer to the Brits, but except for the aura of intimacy, he doesn’t particularly remind me of either one. There are a few fleeting moments that do make me think of Robyn Hitchcock if he’d been heavily impacted in his formative years by Bert Jansch. And the last couple selections led me to wonder if McWilliams cut this record in a lighthouse, but no, it was tracked at Wonka Sound Studios in the city of Lowell. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICK: Milt Jackson & Ray Charles, Soul Brothers (Rhino) Ray Charles is a pillar of 20th century music, but his discography is large, and from my perspective, the two albums he cut with Milt Jackson for Atlantic are too frequently overlooked, perhaps because neither LP features Charles’ voice. Soul Brothers was the first, released in 1958 (Soul Meeting came out in ’61), and it has an abundance of fine qualities. Naturally, prominent among them is Charles on piano and Jackson on vibes, but the record is just as notable for documenting Charles’ alto sax (the title track and “How Long How Long Blues,” comprising the entirety of side one), and on the album’s mono pressings (which is what Rhino is reissuing) “Bag’s Guitar Blues,” which is the only recording of Jackson playing guitar. If you’re getting the idea that these sessions were relaxed, that’s affirmative, but the playing is sharp for the duration, heightened with Billy Mitchell on tenor, Skeeter Best on guitar, Oscar Pettiford on bass, and Jackson’s Modern Jazz Quartet bandmate Connie Kay on drums. The goodness is inexhaustible. A

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores for
June 2021, Part Two

Part two of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for June 2021. Part one is here.

NEW RELEASE PICK: Ìxtahuele, Eden Ahbez’s Dharmaland (Subliminal Sounds) Eden Ahbez remains best known for writing “Nature Boy,” which was a smash hit in 1948 for Nat King Cole, though in connection with that achievement Ahbez was noted for a proto-hippie lifestyle that included mysticism, health foods, and extended living outdoors (you know, in nature). The Swedish exotica band Ìxtahuele (amongst its members is Mattias Uneback, whose highly enjoyable Voyage Beneath the Sea came out last year, also on Subliminal Sounds) has undertaken the recording of Ahbez’s late compositions, which were located in the Library of Congress by this album’s coproducer (and liner scribe) Brian Chidester. The results are deftly played and with obvious love and respect for the material. Fans of Martin Denny will surely be pleased, but a song like “Dharma Man,” sung by King Kukulele, gives a lighthearted (some might say novelty) spin to the clear influence of Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums, and delivers a tune that would’ve fit very nicely on Rhino’s The Beat Generation box set. Like, cool, daddy-o. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: V/A, Chicago/The Blues/Today! (Craft) Recorded for the Vanguard label in 1965 at the behest of Sam Charters, the three LPs in this collection were initially released as separate volumes. They were first reissued together in 1999, and now here they are again for RSD in a triple gatefold sleeve with two sets of notes by Charters and some words from critic Ed Ward (RIP). Issuing them together makes for a more expensive package, but that’s really beside the point, as anybody with an interest will want all three. Bluntly, this material from nine Windy City blues bands is indispensable from side one to side six. The artists tapped are Junior Wells, J.B. Hutto, Otis Spann, James Cotton, Otis Rush, Homesick James, Johnny Young, Johnny Shines and Big Walter Horton with Charlie Musselwhite. Of course, guitars, mouth harps, and pianos are well represented, but Young’s mandolin adds some unexpected breadth. Along with a handful of LPs put out on Delmark by Bob Koester (RIP), this set exemplifies the sound of the Chicago blues in the 1960s. It still delivers an astonishing kick. A

Michel Legrand, La Piscine OST + “Un Homme Est Mort” (WEWANTSOUNDS) Legrand, who passed in 2019, remains one of the greatest of film composers, and one of the best at utilizing the legit essence of jazz. The list of his exceptional scores is long, so instead I’ll mention that this is one of his less celebrated OSTs, at least in the USA, where the 1969 psychological thriller directed by Jacques Deray doesn’t have much of a reputation, at least not until very recently, with its 2021 restoration and theatrical rerelease, 4K Blu-ray from Criterion, and the LP at hand (the bonus RSD-only 45 offers two cuts from a 1972 Deray film scored by Legrand). Starring the smoking hot bods of Alain Delon and Romy Schneider, a soundtrack positively brimming with chicness was required, but Legrand delivers more, grabbing violinist Stephane Grappelli, calling on his vocalist sister Christiane Legrand (a member of the Swingle Singers), and even getting Delaney Bramlett to sing on one of the album’s two pop-rock numbers (but it’s the other one, “Ask Yourself Why,” sung in English by Sally Stevens, that’s the gem). The 45 is a total smoker. A

The Raybeats, The Lost Philip Glass Sessions (Ramp Local) NYC’s The Raybeats featured George Scott, Don Christensen, and Jody Harris, all fresh from the Contortions, and also included Pat Irwin, who played with Scott in 8-Eyed Spy (Lydia Lunch’s band after Teenage Jesus and the Jerks), so the No Wave connection is sturdy. But if you’re expecting pure abrasiveness and alienation, please understand that The Raybeats were tagged at the time as a neo-surf group. One could also call them a party rock combo, a description that points ahead to Irwin’s later work with the B-52’s. Also, Danny Amis, who replaced Scott after his death by overdose, went on to play in Los Straitjackets. Of the seven tracks here, Amis plays bass on a cover of Link Wray’s “Jack the Ripper” and guitar on “A Sad Little Caper.” Those and two more cuts, “Pack of Camels” and “Black Beach,” were produced by Philip Glass, who also played keyboards (and released it all in 2013 on his Orange Mountain Music label, though this is its first time on vinyl). A few of these moves are showing their age, but overall, this hangs together quite well. A-

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