Category Archives: The TVD Record Store Club

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

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Body Meπa, The Work Is Slow (Hausu Mountain) This band of heavyweights (we shan’t call them a supergroup) chose a name that directly references the classic 1978 album by Ornette Coleman and Prime Time, although integrating the Pi symbol and thereby rendering the moniker distinct underscores this unit’s pursuit of their own substantive thing. The four pillars of Body Meπa are Grey McMurray (Sō Percussion, etc.) and Sasha Frere-Jones (of Ui, etc.) on guitars (Frere-Jones also plays bass on one track, “Rice Tea”), Melvin Gibbs (Defunkt, Harriet Tubman, etc.) on bass, and Greg Fox (Guardian Alien, etc.) on drums. Nobody sings. It should be a no-brainer that fans of the participant’s prior activities should seek out The Work Is Slow (available on CD, cassette and digital) at their earliest opportunity, but that doesn’t get to what the record sounds like. As the six tracks unwind, I heard elements of post-rock, a few passages of gliding psych, and even some robust funk. Also, the 1980s SST aesthetic (e.g., Minutemen and Meat Puppets) kept crossing my mind, and that’s just marvelous. A

Green-House, Music for Living Spaces (Leaving) The Los Angeles-based non-binary artist Olive Ardizoni released their debut Six Songs for Invisible Gardens on cassette and digital in January of 2020 (it’s subsequently received CD and LP editions that are still available; the tape is sold out), a recording that sounded exactly like what its title promised (that is, music for the benefit of transparent plants) while simultaneously and subtly exceeding expectations. Part of why related to Ardizoni enhancing their environmental objective through sheer electronic range while never losing focus of the goal. The same is true for this follow-up, which is rich with analog synths and vintage keyboard tones alongside recordings of nature such as babbling brooks, reverberating insects, birdsong and falling rain. Often gentle and always eschewing the disruptive, there are welcome unexpected elements, and right away with the regality of tone in opener “Top Soil.” Music for Living Spaces (also available on cassette, CD and LP) is relaxing and functional, but it’s as deep as it is pretty. It’s ultimately very moving. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Juana Molina, Segundo (Crammed Discs) While undertaking a synopsis of Argentine singer-songwriter and sound sculptor Molina’s prior work in a review of her terrific 2017 album Halo, I assessed this album, her second, as “a considerable step forward.” That was intended as high praise. However, given the extensive background provided in this 2LP reissue’s liners regarding the recording’s slow progression toward breakout success (let’s just say the journey was impacted by a few chance encounters), the terseness of my description reads like short shrift. I’ll add that getting reacquainted with Segundo on the occasion of this edition (which benefits from a quality remastering job) finds it rising in my esteem and deepening my impression that I underrated it, if inadvertently. For those unfamiliar but curious to hear more of Molina’s work, this is a fine starting point. While its contents can be tagged as folktronica, Molina ultimately transcends the designation. Fans of the Beta Band and Rita Lee’s work in Os Mutantes who don’t know Molina have some good times ahead. A

Can, Live In Stuttgart 1975 (Mute) Captured from the audience on a Halloween night, the first installment in Mute’s series of Can live documents is absolutely essential, even if you’re already familiar with the recording (as the sound has been cleaned up considerably by sole surviving founding member Irmin Schmidt). Those who haven’t heard it should prepare for a jaw-dropping experience, as Can nixed a run-through of established tunes for five jams, titled numerically as “Eins,” “Zwei,” “Drei,” “Vier,” and “Funf” (and sans vocals, as Damo Sazuki had recently left the band). The whole is high of discipline, intensity and extendedness. Of particular note for their durations are the 20-minute opener and the 36-minute “Drei,” the latter a startling excursion that justifies purchase of the 2CD/ 3LP all by itself. Along with the sheer pleasure of hearing Schmidt, Jaki Liebezeit, Michael Karoli, and Holger Czukay firing on full cylinders, it’s notable that the psychedelic thrust of these pieces travels into regions that aren’t readily taggable as Krautrock. It is identifiable at superb, however. A

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

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Joe Morris / Damon Smith, Gusts Against Particles (Open Systems) Free improv/ avant-jazz guitarist Joe Morris has been active since the 1970s, debuting on record with Wraparound by his trio on his own label Riti in 1983. Double bassist Damon Smith is nearly two decades Morris’ junior and young enough that punk rock (’80s US u-ground division) was a source of inspiration before jazz and free improv. He’s recorded a bunch, and like Morris, he started his own label, Balance Point Acoustics. On his instrument, Smith is a beast, and in fact, so is Morris; as Gusts Against Particles plays, the sheer breadth of technique grows to utterly striking levels, largely because the goal is intensity of interaction. Morris’ sound is at times reminiscent of Derek Bailey and Eugene Chadbourne (in free improv mode) but he is ultimately his own man. The same is true of Smith as he pulls gargantuan notes on his bass and wrangles passages of massive extendedness. A wonderfully recorded LP (Smith’s breathing is audible at a few points) in an edition of 200 as Open Systems’ first release. With two digital bonus tracks. A

Maxine Funke, Seance (A Colourful Storm) New Zealander Maxine Funke sings and plays guitar with an uncommon gentleness that’s decidedly late-night and never cutesy. In fact, at a few points, like during the terrific “Moody Relish,” Funke conjures an atmosphere that’s notably tense. That same track also had me thinking of Young Marble Giants, a comparison that never crossed my mind when soaking up her 2018 LP Silk. Like on that album, Seance dives deep into the lo-fi folky zone, with that sound heard most straightforwardly in “Homage.” But as on Silk, Funke expertly evades cliché. As side one played, I thought more than once of Skip Spence’s Oar, which is high praise, as that record is a masterpiece. So is this one. Having played in $100 Band with Alastair Galbraith and Mike Dooley (also her bandmate in The Snares), Funke has roots in the Kiwi underground, and while the relationship remains tangible as her latest unwinds, her music isn’t easily comparable to others from the same scene, which is to her credit. It’s also worth noting that Funke’s strain of lo-fi is economical rather than murky. A

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Chora(s)san Time-Court Mirage / Catherine Christer Hennix, Blues Alif Lam Mim (Blank Forms Editions) Since 2018, Blank Forms has enriched the world with a yearly release of work by the Swedish composer Catherine Christer Hennix. The first three date from the 1970s, but this set is of more recent vintage, the piece (full title: Blues Alif Lam Mim in the Mode of Rag Infinity/Rag Cosmosis) performed in 2014 in Brooklyn at ISSUE Project Room by Hennix and her expanded just intonation ensemble Chora(s)san Time-Court Mirage and issued on CD in 2016 by Important Records; this 2LP (in a tip-on gatefold Stoughton jacket) is its vinyl debut. The ensemble features a five-horn brass section, live electronics and three voices (one of them Hennix herself) as the music extends to nearly 80 minutes at the intersection of drone, raga and the cosmic. The effect is meditative (the singers incant a devotional poem written by Hennix in Arabic that includes quotations from the Quran) but wields power and beauty in equal measure. Avant-garde sounds are rarely this welcoming. A

Mark Fry, Dreaming With Alice (Now Again Reserve) In 2013, an original copy of this record, first released by RCA subsidiary It in 1972, sold for a smidge over $4,000. When obscurities go for that much, it’s safe to assume the master tapes are lost and someone’s planning a reissue mastered from clean vinyl. But Now Again’s edition, available on wax and CD, is sourced from the rediscovered tapes, and the fidelity is totally up to snuff. The music is psych-folk of unusually high quality and sustained levels of bentness, and the story (in short) is that while studying painting in Italy, Fry cut this record for It, the label teaming him with the visiting Scottish band Middle of the Road. Along with a title song that’s broken into segments (each featuring a verse) and spread across the album, there are flutes and sitars and a general druggy atmosphere, with the folky vibes mildly reminiscent of Nick Drake and Donovan. A prior reissue by Akarma came in a sleeve paying homage to/ ripping off the cover of Barabajagal, but this sports the original design and adds six CD bonus cuts of a substantially mellower disposition. A-

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

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

NEW RELEASE PICK: V/A, Arc Mountain (Hausu Mountain / Deathbomb Arc) This release, a benefit with all profits going to the Last Prisoner Project (a nonprofit committed to cannabis criminal justice reform), features artists from the Deathbomb Arc and Hausu Mountain labels in collaboration, with the cassette released by Hausu Mountain and the CD by Deathbomb Arc. Contributors include Dustin Wong, Margo Padilla aka I.E., They Hate Change, J Fisher, Fielded, Signor Benedick the Moor, TALSounds, Angry Blackmen, George Chen, Jonathan Snipes, White Boy Scream and more, with particularly heavy input from Fire-Toolz and Khaki Blazer. The contents range from wild blasts of underground hip-hop to varied strains of avant-pop to bent electronics to noisy soundscapes, with some instances of overlap and the uniting bonds being the liberating spirit of experimentation and a clear disdain for the soul-sucking rigidity of norms, both musical and societal.  Upon repeated listens, the gripping assemblage of twisted teamwork (mostly twos but a couple threes) coheres into a larger statement of considerable power. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: BMX Bandits, Star Wars (Last Night From Glasgow) Headed by sole constant member Duglas T Stewart and with input on this album from Francis McDonald and Norman Blake of Teenage Fanclub and Gordon Keen and Eugene Kelly of Eugenius (Kelly was also in The Vaselines), BMX Bandits are one of indie pop’s finest cult bands, but with a refined blend of kindheartedness and twee tendencies that inspired many to reject them. Although there is a sense of the awkward in Stewart’s vocals (which has resulted in comparisons to Jonathan Richman, though they don’t sound alike to my ear), it never comes of as a mannerism, and that’s cool. What definitely not awkward is Stewart’s songwriting, which blossoms beyond the standard indie pop jangle. One example is “Extraordinary,” (sure to drive twee-haters up a wall), which sounds a little like young Dan Treacy if he was heavy into Nilsson and bubblegum pop rather than Syd Barrett. And instrumentally, the flare-ups of baroque strings remind me a bit of Big Star’s Third. And that’s just dandy. First time on vinyl outside of Japan. A-

V/A, Made to Measure Vol.1 (Crammed Discs) As part of Crammed Discs’ 40th anniversary, here’s a reissue on vinyl and compact disc of the inaugural entry in the Belgian label’s series dedicated to music that either could’ve been or deliberately was made as a soundtrack to other artforms, e.g. film, theater, dance, and even a fashion show, as is the case with this album’s track by Benjamin Lew, “A la recherche de B.” The other contributors are Minimal Compact, with four tracks commissioned for live dance; Aksak Maboul, with the album highlight “Scratch Holiday,” supposedly crafted (with a turntable, a ’60s pop 45, and orange marmalade) to soundtrack a movie, and six tracks intended to accompany a theatrical play; and Tuxedomoon, with three cuts composed for a documentary film. The guest violin by Jeannot Gillis (of Julverne and Univers Zero) for Minimal Compact, who are sequenced first, lends an appealing circularity, as Tuxdeomoon (and violin) close side two. But in fact, as the record plays, the sound is quite unified as it stirs thoughts of Rock in Opposition, Ralph Records, and early ’80s avant-pop in general. A-

Telex, This Is Telex (Mute) The best way to experience Telex is probably by soaking up one of their songs in a larger mix of material, like during some cat’s late night college radio show, in the midst of a friend’s mixtape, or as spun by a DJ in a club while waiting patiently for the headliner. Over the years, I’ve heard a few people opine that Telex was a novelty act, a conclusion drawn essentially because of their penchant for interpreting the material of others in the then nascent electronic pop style. I disagree. Taken individually, Telex’s songs are frequently pleasant, partly through catchiness but also due to the enduring appeal of their formative aura. But when heard sandwiched between the songs of others, Telex sticks out, largely because they were operating with a different sensibility. The trio’s versions of “La Bamba” (included on this LP/ CD compilation) and “Rock Around the Clock” (which isn’t, giving hopes for a follow-up volume) underscore the non-angsty ’50s-ish R&R spirit they brought to the scene. But there’s more to Telex, like a sweet version of Sparks’ “The Number One Song in Heaven.” A-

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

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Sarah Louise, Earth Bow (Self-released) Once upon a time, Sarah Louise Henson was primarily known for her skills as a fingerpicking guitarist and then a little later, as half of the progressive Appalachia duo House and Land with Sally Anne Morgan. But with her pair of LPs for Thrill Jockey, Deeper Woods (2018) and Nighttime Birds and Morning Stars (2019), she began making expansive headway that has come to some beautiful conclusions with her latest, Earth Bow. The blend of New Age and kosmische and drones and psychedelia might not seem like much of a big deal, seeing as how variations on this combination have been pretty common over the last decade or so, but a few things are working in Sarah Louise’s favor. Foremost, she’s deeply invested in song form, even flirting with pop here and there. Second, those songs can get quite intense. Earth Bow didn’t help me to relax; it took me for a ride. Third is her voice, powerful and beautiful, deepening the attentiveness to matters of nature and healing and bringing added dimension to the LP. It’s called sincerity. It means a lot. A

Innov Gnawa, Lila (Daptone) Based in NYC, Innov Gnawa is comprised of five Moroccan expats led by Mâallem Hassan Ben Jaâfer, who sings and plays the guembri, the three-stringed African bass (also called the Sintir), the featured instrument of Joshua Abrams on the latest record by his band Natural Information Society (a new release pick in this column just two weeks ago). The sound of the guembri here is traditional in nature, amply anchoring and propelling a style that’s been tagged as Sufi Blues. Please note that this sound is distinct from Malian Desert Blues, as Innov Gnawa’s four other members, Amino Belyamani, Ahmed Jeriouda, Samir LanGus, and Nawfal Atiq, along with singing richly in response to Ben Jaâfer’s powerful lead, all play metal castanets called qraqebs. An exception is the closing track “Hamdouchia,” which features Ben Jaâfer alone, his guembri playing as the start reminding me of Jimmy Garrison’s solo preludes in performance with John Coltrane (e.g. Live in Japan). Lila (which translates to “night” and describes an all-night Sufi musical healing ceremony) is utterly sublime. A

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Michael Nesmith, Different Drum: The Lost RCA Victor Recordings (Real Gone) The albums Michael Nesmith cut for RCA, six from 1970-’73, are still too often overlooked today, a circumstance that directly extends from their general neglect by consumers when they were new in the racks. While not flops (Magnetic South, his debut with The First National Band, produced the Top 40 hit “Joanne”), they certainly undersold in relation to RCA’s hopes for the man freshly departed from The Monkees. Now, for those with a long abiding love for Nesmith’s distinct strain of country-rock worthiness (abetted by the pedal steel of O.J. “Red” Rhodes, drummer John Ware, and bassist John London, under the supervision of Chet Atkins and Felton Jarvis), this CD is a sweet dish 22 tracks deep from across his time with RCA. Yes, it’s loaded with alternates and the back end is mostly instrumentals, but there’s distinctiveness in the versions and the playing is as shit-hot as skillet gravy. So I guess that means this set will make a fine primer for those having not yet plunged into Nesmith’s solo stuff. A-

Zouo, Agony憎悪Remains (Relapse) This set is the second in what’s hopefully an ongoing series of reissues by Relapse diving into 1980s Japanese hardcore; the first, Detestation, the debut LP from the highly influential band GISM (I’d call them legendary, but they appear to be currently active), emerged late last year. Agony憎悪Remains collects the debut 4-song 7-inch EP by Zouo, originally released in 1984, and adds two comp tracks from the same year to complete side one. The flip offers nine live cuts culled from Relapse’s 41-track digital release. It’s not clear if the vinyl editions (there appears to be four different color variations available but selling quickly) come with a download card; this review focuses on the 15-tracks grooved into the wax. Metal-core was too often hackneyed, but at its bizarre and extreme best, Japan’s strain was in a class by itself. Speed is integral, but it’s never the soul objective. Pristine fidelity gets nixed as murk and echo are abundant; indeed, some of the live stuff sounds like it was recorded in a metal culvert by a single microphone from 25 feet away. This is just as it should be. A-

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

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Toumani Diabaté and the London Symphony Orchestra, Kôrôlén (World Circuit) GRAMMY-winning kora specialist Diabaté is one of the cornerstones of traditional Malian music and also a diverse collaborator, with his partners including his countrymen Ali Farka Touré and fellow kora player Ballaké Sissoko, plus Taj Mahal, Roswell Rudd, Björk, and now the London Symphony Orchestra. As the delightful Promises, in which the LSO support electronic musician Floating Points and saxophonist Pharoah Sanders, was released just last month, it might seem the London Symphony are on something like a creative roll, but Kôrôlén dates from a 2008 concert at the Barbican Centre in London, with Ian Gardiner and Nico Muhly arranging the orchestra. The infusion of non-classical styles with the ol’ longhair tradition has historically been an iffy impulse at best, but this album, if not perfect in its combination of distinct aesthetics, does succeed, both through sensitivity (on the part of the orchestra) and flights of beauty from the kora, the balafon, and late in the LP, vocals. A-

Tristan Kasten-Krause, Potential Landscapes (Whatever’s Clever) Kasten-Krause is a NYC-based composer and bassist who, in addition to playing on Broadway in Oklahoma!, has been recruited to play on works by Steve Reich and Alvin Lucier. More pertinent to Potential Landscapes’ reality is Kasten-Krause’s involvement with his city’s “DIY and experimental scenes,” and by extension, his desire to make a record rooted in deeper levels of collaboration than is the norm in avant-garde circles, with Cloud Nothings drummer Jason Gerycz, experimental vocalist Lisel (Eliza Bagg), Tigue percussionist Matt Evans, electric guitarist-composer Brendon Randall-Myers, and violinist Carol Johnson bringing (per the PR for the release) their “musical practices” to the album, rather than simply realizing Kasten-Krause’s ideas, which are drone-based and more specifically rooted in the work of Lucier, Éliane Radigue, Jon Gibson, and Phill Niblock. The results are varied and yet deliver a coherent statement, and digestible, as the four tracks fit onto a single LP. An edition of 250 on wax, each with a unique hand-painted sleeve. A-

Michael Sarian & Matthew Putman, A Lifeboat (Part I) (577) Last year, in the midst of the pandemic, keyboardist Putman and trumpeter Sarian began playing together (with the necessary precautions) at Studio Hicks, which is in fact another name for Sarian’s home, in an attempt to keep the creativity flowing and to maintain basic sanity. Two short digital-only volumes were subsequently released (both still available for download), with each sporting the serviceable tag of Improvisations. They combined into a statement of beauty and urgency. This set, available digitally, on digipak CD and LP (limited copies on red, cyan blue, and black), wholly extends that worthiness (Part II is scheduled for release later this year). While Putman continues to play an electric model keyboard in this duo, its chiming resonances distinct from the acoustic mode he explores in the Telepathic Band and elsewhere, Sarian adds flugelhorn to the equation, maybe not a giant leap but still notable when considering the lean potency of these dialogues. The late-night aura gets tempered here, more through familiarity than design. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICK: Paul Dunmall, Keith Tippett, Philip Gibbs, Pete Fairclough, Onosante (577) Like many jazz artists, UK saxophonist Dunmall is ridiculously prolific; this quartet session with his fellow Brits, pianist Tippett, guitarist Gibbs and drummer Fairclough, came out on CDr in 2000 in an edition of 100, meaning it was likely to be overlooked amid the more than 150 releases in Dunmall’s discography (that’s not counting the “sideman” dates). And so, it’s especially worthy of reissue (577 is offering a handsome digipak in an edition of 200), partly because Dunmall, in addition to tenor and soprano, plays fife and bagpipes here. The unusualness of the instrumental configuration undeniably adds to the appeal, and right away, as Gibbs’ guitar resonates like a mbira and Tippett dishes some washes of prepared piano. More importantly, the inspired interplay is sustained across the CD, and notably during the nearly 35-minute “For Lost Souls.” Along with the spark and energy of free improv, there is warmth that’s recognizably jazzy. The good news is 577 has more Dunmall scheduled for later in the year. A

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

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Natural Information Society with Evan Parker, descension (Out of Our Constrictions) (eremite) Formed in Chicago by multi-instrumentalist Joshua Abrams in 2010, the Natural Information Society on this 2LP features Jason Stein on bass clarinet, Mikel Patrick Avery on drums, and Lisa Alvarado on harmonium and effects, with Abrams on guembri and British saxophone titan Evan Parker completing the lineup of 7/9/2019, captured live in London at Cafe OTO as they explore the possibilities of one piece for 75 minutes. Naturally, it’s divided across four sides of vinyl, but in an interesting twist, also into four mp3s, which formulates a digital experience that’s a little like listening to the first CD edition of Coltrane’s Om (where the vinyl fadeout-rise up was retained). This might seem like an odd digression, but not so much when Coltrane’s impact on Parker is considered. His breath tangles with Stein are simply magnificent (indeed, evoking Trane and Dolphy), but it’s the incessant groove (with ties the Chicago House) and Alvarado’s wonderful contribution that enhances the unique flavor. A

Christine Ott, Time to Die (Gizeh) Ott’s skills as a multi-instrumentalist and composer are well-established, both through her solo albums (this is her fourth overall) and more recently in the side-project duo Snowdrops with Mathieu Gabry; earlier in her career, Ott contributed extensively to Yann Tiersen’s band. For Time to Die, she sings and plays piano, harp, and the Ondes Martenot (something of a signature instrument for her), along with adding percussion, Jupiter8, timpani, tubular bells, monotron and vibraphone. Gabry also contributes on a variety of instruments, and it’s the spoken voice of Casey Brown that’s heard in the opening title-track (reading a “beloved cinematic text” I shan’t spoil). Offered as a sequel to Ott’s 2016 LP Only Silence Remains, this record’s stylistic range is appealingly wide, beginning in a dark ambient-electronic zone and gradually drifting into assorted modes of modern classical, and with particular emphasis on her skills as a pianist. Although this isn’t a soundtrack (Gizeh calls it a “musical fresco in eight chapters”), Ott’s strengths as a film composer do shine through. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: V/A, Sound Storing Machines: The First 78rpm Records from Japan, 1903-1912 (Sublime Frequencies) The output of Sublime Frequencies is reliably captivating, and this set is no exception, the third in a series devoted to early recordings from Asia, all compiled by Robert Millis of the Climax Golden Twins. The prior volumes are The Crying Princess: 78rpm Records from Burma and Scattered Melodies: Korean Kayagum Sanjo, both released in 2013, and of the three, this set reaches back the farthest. Flat disc recording (as opposed to Edison-style cylinders) had only been in existence for a few years prior to the timeframe of this LP/ CD, so the audio quality isn’t optimal as surface noise is abundant. But I somehow doubt that anybody excited to hear these offerings will be too bothered by the rough ambience. No doubt many will welcome it. As Millis observes in his notes, the haze of surface noise intensifies the aura of strangeness. Amongst the most unusual are two by Suenaga Togi with the Imperial Household Orchestra, but the overall value easily eclipses the weird. A

V/A, MIEN (YAO) – Cannon Singing in China, Vietnam, Laos (Sublime Frequencies) Recorded and produced by Laurent Jeanneau aka Kink Gong, this LP offers three vocal duos, Keo and Na (from Laos), Deng Fu Mei and Zhang Wu Mei (from China) and Yang Chun Jin and Yang Bao Cheng (also from China), plus one track by Gap Choun (from Vietnam) that combines singing with considerable percussive clatter and bash. Succinctly, the Yao are hill tribes residing in the countries of the title, and the Mien are the largest branch of the Yao. While the vocal style doesn’t vary all that much across these pieces, the nearly 20 minutes of Keo and Na (sequenced first) becomes quite hypnotic as it progresses and is further enhanced by its nature as a field recording. There is birdsong (very welcome), but also at a few points a low hum that injects a mysterious tension into the scheme of things, at least until it becomes apparent that it might just be a distant motorbike. Due to its prominent rhythmic component, I kinda dig the Gap Choun piece the best, but nothing captured here is the slightest bit disappointing. A-

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

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: El Michels Affair, Yeti Season (Big Crown) Funk is a constant in this enduring band/ studio project spearheaded by Big Crown cofounder Leon Michels, and funk reliably of a cinematic stripe; think boldly composed ’70s soundtracks. So it is with Yeti Season, the Affair’s third LP of original material (Michels is also noted for instrumental reworkings of Wu-Tang Clan and Isaac Hayes), though there is a sweet gravitation toward Turkish pop aided by Piya Malik (she of Big Crown act 79.5) singing in Hindi on four selections evenly distributed throughout the record. The non-vocal tracks are totally worthy however, particularly the Bill Conti-brassiness of “Ala Vida.” But nothing on this set beats the Malik sung “Zaharita,” which is sequenced late and suggests a ’70s Turkish movie where beaucoup psychedelics are consumed, and then some seriously bad shit happens. And while on the subject of film, I’ll add in conclusion that the cover of this record is persistently reminding me of the Michael Findlay-directed grindhouse non-classic Shriek of the Mutilated, a movie as duff as Yeti Season is swank. A-

Thomas Fehlmann, Böser Herbst (Kompakt) Zurich-born composer-producer Fehlmann has been at it for decades, first as part of the noted Neue Deutsche Welle act Palais Schaumburg, later as the founder of the Teutonic Beats label, and after that, contributions to The Orb. Along the way, there has been numerous other projects and solo work, with Böser Herbst the follow-up of sorts to 1929 – Das Jahr Babylon, Fehlmann’s 2018 soundtrack to the documentary of the same name by Volker Heise. This album is the OST to Heise’s Herbst 1929, Schatten Über Babylon; both docs offer historical insight for those watching the German TV series Babylon Berlin, which brings us to Fehlmann’s work here. On the prior record and this one, sounds were taken from 1920s-era recordings, with the samples looped, layered, stretched and otherwise distorted in a manner that’s surprisingly subtle. To put it another way, there’s an abundance of hazy hiss on Böser Herbst, but no clichéd crackle. Think ocean tides rather than rotating shellac. The set is atmospheric, but there’s also drive and strangeness. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICK: Allen Ginsberg, At Reed College – The First Recorded Reading of Howl and Other Poems (Omnivore) Note that this isn’t the first public reading of “Howl”; that occasion was the famous Gallery Six event from October 1955 that featured Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen, Philip Lamantia, and Michael McClure (Lawrence Ferlinghetti was in attendance. So was Kerouac and Neal Cassady. Kenneth Rexroth was emcee). This Reed College performance was from the following February, held at the liberal arts-focused school located in Portland, OR. In his notes for this tremendous archival find, Dr. Pancho Savery (Professor of English & Humanities at Reed) mentions that the version of “Howl” that’s nearest to what’s heard on this release (available on vinyl, CD, and digital) is found in Howl: Original Draft Facsimile, Transcript & Variant Versions (first published in 1986), and he adds that it’s worthwhile (advisable, even) to have a copy of it (specifically, “Draft 5”) and the text of the City Lights edition handy to read while listening.

If this makes At Reed College sound like a prize best suited for serious poetry nuts and particularly those with an itch only the Beats (and associated bohos) can scratch, well…perhaps. I will add that the tape ran out during the reading, so if you are expecting a seamless experience, this is not that. It’s not even complete, as after Ginsberg rereads a few lines once the recording has recommenced and then begins “Part II,” he abruptly asks to stop due to an inadequate level of energy on his part. And yet, the whole, which is comprised of poems that were first published alongside “Howl” in Howl & Other Poems and in Reality Sandwiches, is a fascinating document, and one that’s ultimately fully satisfying, even if it’s unfinished. It’s striking to hear the laughter of the assembled, not just during “A Supermarket in California,” but also in “Howl,” and the same is true for Ginsberg’s playful false starts while reading “A Dream Record.” In the end, it’s a joy to hear one of the very greatest of modern poets sharing his defining work while it was still being perfected. A

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

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

NEW RELEASE PICK: Xiu Xiu, OH NO (Polyvinyl) This album features Xiu Xiu’s Jamie Stewart in a series of duets with an impressive list of contemporary artists, including Sharon Van Etten, Haley Fohr (Circuits Des Yeux), Greg Saunier (Deerhoof), Owen Pallet, Chelsea Wolfe, Jonathan Meiburg (Shearwater), Alice Bag, and Stewart’s Xiu Xiu bandmate Angela Seo. 15 duets, well, 14, as the very brief “ANTS,” while a delightful finale, sounds like it’s Valerie Diaz all by her lonesome. Now, when a singer shares the mic on a record with a bunch of different folks, my expectations generally lean toward an enjoyable but not especially challenging affair, so I was intrigued by OH NO, as easy listening has never been Xiu Xiu’s specialty. Hey, good news: it still isn’t. The scoop here is that the making of OH NO served as therapeutic for Stewart, or more to the point, helped him to regain some faith in humanity after suffering a few betrayals. Instead of just a pileup of songs, this unwinds like a Xiu Xiu record, but with a handful of surprises, like a Cure cover, and the swank electro-pop of “A Bottle of Rum” with Liz Harris. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Ali Farka Touré, Red (World Circuit) Released in 1984 by Disques Espérance, a subsidiary of the French Sonodisc label, this wasn’t Touré’s recording debut, but it did substantially raise the Malian guitarist profile and proved enduringly influential, particularly after World Circuit (and Nonesuch in the US) combined it on CD in 2004 with Touré’s ’88 LP, as Red & Green, that name referring to the original eponymous releases’ sleeve colors that have come to stand in as titles that distinguish the two. Growing up in the 1980s, it was stated back then with regularity that World Music was mostly consumed by Yuppies (particularly those who were ex-hippies), but I can’t imagine those cats willingly hanging with the exquisite, barbed rawness of Red’s desert trance blues. Featuring just Touré on a Bulgarian-made acoustic and percussionist Hama Sankare on calibash, this set is pretty much required listening for fans of Tinariwen and for those into the output of the Sahel Sounds label, but it’s also recommended to curious newbies who are partial to the Delta blues and drone music. A

V/A, Cumbia Cumbia 1 & 2 (World Circuit) Cumbia is the celebrated dance music of Columbia, deep of rhythm and spiked with rich horns, spritely accordions and passionate vocals. I can think of no better primer into the goodness of the style than this set, which combines two albums originally issued by World Circuit in 1989 and ’93, the second one on CD only until they were first offered together in 2012. But more importantly, these four sides are packed with material that was first issued by the Discos Fuentes label, the first album spanning 1960-’88, while the second is a deeper dive into the ’50-’60s. What this means is that, unlike a multitude of other decades-spanning comps that become less vital as they progress forward chronologically, this baby is a certifiable fiesta of swinging throughout. Seriously, “Santo Domingo” by Los Cumbiamberos De Pacheco, sequenced deep into side three, feels like the standout of the record, but then side four delivers a ceaseless succession of gems. If you dig Afro Cuban sounds and salsa but aren’t hip to cumbia, this will hit a sweet spot you didn’t know you had. A

Tower of Power, 50 Years of Funk & Soul – Live at the Fox Theater – Oakland, CA – June 2018 (Mack Avenue) As the title relates, San Francisco’s Tower of Power has been around for a long time, hitting that golden anniversary in 2018 and marking the occasion with a run of shows in their hometown, augmenting the 10-piece core band with more horns and even a (sparingly used) string section. And the generosity of the band’s performance is matched by Mack Avenue’s multiformat documentation, as they offer a 3LP, a 2CD/ DVD combo and a standalone DVD. Drum tight and highly polished, Tower of Power embody the sound of communal celebration that’s comparable to Parliament, though minus George Clinton’s eccentricity. Instead, ToP just combine their incessant James Brown-like grooves with a soulful pop inclination that can occasionally suggest ’70s Philadelphia. And while the musicianship is impeccable, the virtuosity never kneecaps feeling, which is kinda miraculous given the nature of the endeavor. I’ll close by mentioning the coincidental timeliness of “Soul Vaccination.” A-

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