Category Archives: The TVD Record Store Club

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

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Hedvig Mollestad, Tempest Revisited (Rune Grammofon) Norwegian guitarist Hedvig Mollestad Thomassen has released seven full-length recordings with her trio, all of them on Rune Grammofon, including Ding Dong. You’re Dead in March of this year. This might lead one to the supposition that this is a solo set, but no; recorded in 2019, it offers five tracks by a septet featuring assorted saxophones, vibraphone, bass, two drummers, a little flute and synth, plus Mollestad’s guitar (she’s also credited with vocals, upright piano, and handclaps). Similar to her trio material, the sound here is a robust fusion, merging rock and jazz in a manner that’s primarily hard and heavy (not bluesy) and expansive rather than explicitly proggy. There are a few pleasant atmospheric stretches and some solid groove action that doesn’t go overboard. Considered a bookend to The Tempest, a work by the late and highly esteemed Norwegian electronic musician and composer Arne Nordheim, this album continues a streak of creativity likely to please adventurous rock heads and non-stodgy jazzbos alike. A-

Wet Tuna, Eau’d To a Fake Bookie Vol. 1 & 2 (Hive Mind) Wet Tuna has been showered with enthusiasm in this space before. The outfit is the impetus of MV and PG Six (aka guitarists Matt Valentine and Pat Gubler), two individuals with deep and varied u-ground psych catalogs who’ve played together extensively for the last 25 years or so, back in the day as part of Tower Recordings and more recently as Wet Tuna. This 2LP is a vinyl press of a limited edition 2CD that came out last year on the Child of Microtones label, consisting of six cover selections, with MV and PG Six multitasking instrumentally while welcoming additional hands on bass and drums. The first LP offers two side-long tracks, “When I Get Home” by Pentangle and “Water Train” by Michael Hurley, that brought to mind both Lou Reed and Skip Spence’s Oar. LP two shortens the runtimes but broadens the sound with programmed drums, organ and synth on versions of “Fallin’ Like Dominoes” by The Blackbyrds, “The Harder They Come” by Jimmy Cliff, “Deal” by Jerry Garcia, and “Baudelaire” by Peter Laughner. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICK: Phương Tâm, Magical Nights: Saigon Surf, Twist & Soul (1964-1966) (Sublime Frequencies) South Vietnamese singer Phương Tâm’s entire career is covered by the three-year period of the title, which makes the sheer range on display all the more impressive, as it includes assorted strains of early R&R (with an emphasis on pre-Beatles dance craze igniters), soul-R&B, bluesy numbers, and jazz ballads. The informative texts in the booklet by Magical Nights’ producers Mark Gergis and Hannah Hà (Tâm’s daughter) explain how Tâm was as much of a club performer as a recording artist, often appearing in up to four venues in the course of one evening and necessitating the breadth of style, as some catered to R&R-loving youth while others were more sophisto. Holding it all together on this CD of 25 tracks is Tâm with vocals strong and confident. She might not be as polished as some of her Western inspirations, but that’s actually part of the appeal, as Tâm is never not in control, her verve combining beautifully with the lean energy of the bands. A large serving of personality-laden history. A

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

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Henry H. Owings, Plus 1 Athens: Show Flyers From a Legendary Scene 1967-2002 (Chunklet Industries) Unless I’m misremembering, Athens, GA was the first city that entered my consciousness specifically as a locale of a music scene. This was no small thing. Although I preferred the sounds of other regions, Athens heavily impacted my consciousness as a place of possibilities achieved, and in my imagination, against substantial odds, at least until I learned that dozens of college towns across the country had scenes. But it’s not like that realization burst my bubble. Offering over 150 flyers (and one guest list) chronicling a city’s musical development, Owings book effectively captures the non-glamor of the Athens experience (this attribute shared with other college rock-indie rock scenes) while documenting a range of styles considerably wider than Southern new wave and jangle.

Owings allows bands no more than three appearances, so instead of 52 flyers of R.E.M., the pages present a narrative of substantial depth as distinct pockets of the scene get illuminated, including the welcome appearance of a few leftfield outfits like Boat Of and the Opal Foxx Quartet, plus a fair amount of out-of-towners, ranging from the Art Ensemble of Chicago to Fugazi to Hasil Adkins and Southern Culture on the Skids. Together with Owings’ thoughtfully personal introduction, there is a forward by Dave Schools of Widespread Panic, an afterword by Patterson Hood of Drive-By Truckers, and essays from Michael Lachowski and Vanessa Hay of Pylon and Arthur Johnson of the Bar-B-Q Killers. Anybody who fond memories of a wall in their humble college-era dwelling decorated with tacked up show flyers understands the appeal of such supposed ephemera (spawned from necessity). There’s an abundance of it in this book, with its first hand numbered edition limited to 500 copies. A

Daxma, Unmarked Boxes (Blues Funeral Recordings / Majestic Mountain Records) To begin, the name is pronounced DOCK-ma and it’s a term for a Zoroastrian funerary temple. The band, comprised of Isaac R. (guitar-vocals-bass), Jessica T. (violin, vocals, guitar, piano), Forrest H. (guitar, bass), and Thomas I. (drums), is from Oakland, CA, with Unmarked Boxes their second full-length alongside two EPs since 2016. Described as a post-doom combo, Daxma’s ambitiousness is on full display here, with the record drawing inspiration from a poem by the 13th century Persian poet Rumi (his line “Don’t grieve, anything you lose comes back in another form” titles the last two tracks). The sound is heavy but also atmospheric. Notably, the band employs “post-metal” as a descriptor, which strikes me as a genre extension of post-rock. I bring this up because the atmospheric qualities occasionally brought Godspeed You! Black Emperor to my mind. I’m not the first to mention this similarity; while it’s not overdone, the relationship is certainly there. And that’s swell. So are the vocals. Eminently relistenable. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICK: Leo Nocentelli, Another Side (Light in the Attic) Nocentelli is best known as the guitar player and songwriter in The Meters, the decidedly funky New Orleans institution. This recently-unearthed solo album (the story features “Money Mike” Nishita and a Southern California swap meet), recorded between 1970-’72 with assistance from pianist Allen Toussaint, drummer James Black, and fellow Meters, bassist George Porter Jr. and drummer Zigaboo Modeliste, is largely acoustic and therefore not inaccurately described as folky, but it’s still a pretty funky affair, which is cool. It can be hard not to think of Bill Withers as the songs unwind, but that’s just fine, as thoughts of Bill Withers have never been a problem for me. But along with a few instances that inch toward swamp pop (“Riverfront” reminds me a bit of Tony Joe White with a hint of Shuggie Otis), everybody’s playing is sharp, and Nocentelli’s singing is consistently likeable, especially on “Getting Nowhere” and an album-closing version of Elton John’s “Your Song.” Another sweet surprise from a reissue label full of them. A-

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

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Patrick Shiroishi, Hidemi (American Dreams) Los Angeles-based Japanese-American multi-instrumentalist & composer Shiroishi named this record in memory of his grandfather Hidemi Patrick Shiroishi, with its contents directly related to his 2020 album Descension, which was primarily an expression of life inside the Japanese-American concentration camps of WWII. That set, featuring saxophone and electronics, stands as an uncompromising yet cathartic experience, but Hidemi, with its more personal focus on his grandfather’s post-camp life, offers great beauty amid passages of raucous power as Shiroishi plays C-melody, soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone saxophones, multitracking the horns in studio to often startling effect. While there are elements of free jazz abstraction in the mix, this is a highly structured record that is further elevated by Shiroishi’s vocals on the final track, “The Long Bright Dark.” Vinyl has been pushed back to February/March. There is an accompanying chapbook of essays from Asian-American artists including Susie Ibarra, Jon Irabagon, and Eyvind Kang. A

Sally Anne Morgan, Cups (Thrill Jockey) As a member of the Black Twig Pickers and as half of House and Land, multi-instrumentalist Morgan has amassed a considerable body of work, but it was only last year that her terrific solo debut Thread was released. Cups is its follow-up, released on cassette October 1 with the digital available tomorrow, 11/12. No mention is made of additional contributors, so it’s safe to assume that Morgan is using the studio to its full advantage and playing fiddle, banjo, guitar, dulcimer, and assorted percussion. What might be lost in interactive spontaneity is replaced with intensity of personal vision; Cups is a recording that’s inextricably connected to Appalachian old-time tradition, but with an expansiveness (Thrill Jockey describes it as psychedelic) elevating the contents into the realms of the experimental. In “Hori Hori” the guitar is reminiscent of prime early Fahey (in terms of pure beauty, not dexterity), while closer “Angeline” exudes some tremendous raga vibes. In between there are elements of drone and cyclical maneuvers that are subtly Minimalist. An altogether superb excursion. A

Ross Goldstein, Chutes & Ladders (Odd Cat) This is the third LP in Goldstein’s trilogy for mellotron (preceded by The Eighth House in 2018 and Timoka last year), a highly satisfying culmination that, like the prior two albums, avoids disintegrating into a faux-orchestral swamp. It’s important to note that the entirety of the LP’s sounds derive from the mellotron’s soundcard library (the same is true of The Eighth House and Timoka, with the exception of a field recording of a hot springs on the former and the sound of Goldstein’s cat on the later), and also that Goldstein is using a digital simulation of an original modal. Much of Chutes & Ladders radiates like extracts of film soundtracks, and especially the recording of Beethoven’s “Allegretto,” which sounds like it could’ve been culled from an obscure Eastern European art film from the late ’60s, and a closing reading of Shostakovich’s “Largo.” Many of the original pieces, and particularly so with “Socorro” and “Journey to the End of the Night” (nice Céline reference there) delver a sort of mystical sci-fi atmosphere that brought Tarkovsky to mind, which is fantastic. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICK: The Bootheels, 1988: The Original Demos (Omnivore Recordings) Doubtlessly some folks who are hip to the background of this band but have yet to soak up the 13 tracks (plus three extra on the CD and digital) have glanced downward just a bit on their screens, absorbed the given grade and are sure the mark’s just too kind: “They were just teenagers, how can it be that good.” Well, for one thing, some of the best R&R ever was made by teens, and The Bootheels are unabashedly R&R in orientation. Second, the lineup doesn’t just feature one musician who went on to proverbial bigger and better, there are four, namely future Freewheeler Luther Russell (also half of Those Pretty Wrongs with Jody Stephens), Jakob Dylan and Tobi Miller, later of The Wallflowers, and Aaron A. Brooks who went on to play with Moby and Lana Del Rey. This isn’t one budding talent surrounded by modest cohorts, it’s four skilled guys bursting with energy. Yes, their stuff sounds a lot like the Replacements, but had these songs came out in ’88 I would’ve played them a helluva lot more than Don’t Tell a Soul. A-

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

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Black Marble, Fast Idol (Sacred Bones) Beginning as a duo, with the early exit of TY Kube, Black Marble became the project of Chris Stewart, Brooklyn-based for a while though currently working in Los Angeles. Three full-length records precede Fast Idol in the Black Marble discography, with this set the second LP released by Sacred Bones, who also put out Black Marble’s pink vinyl 12-inch of cover songs last year. I dug that set, and feel the same way about Fast Idol, as Stewart’s approach to techno-pop benefits from vivid multidimensionality of execution. It’s clear by now that scads of folks can regurgitate this sound, but few pull it off as convincingly as Stewart. It comes down to writing as much as timbres and atmospherics. Style descriptors attached to Black Marble include darkwave, minimal synth, and coldwave, none of them inappropriate, but to my ear, the sustained high quality of the songwriting places this album firmly in pop territory, techno- or synth-, take your pick. Highly danceable, but more achily lush. The added guitar in “Say It First” delivers a standout moment. A-

Dinner, Dream Work (Captured Tracks) Dinner is Danish multi-instrumentalist Anders Rhedin, who has a few prior full-lengths out on Captured Tracks, though the man is in fact returning from a sojourn of sorts, as it is divulged that he delved into the potentialities of “ambient and meditation music.” As this is my introduction to Rhedin’s work, it was difficult to discern what kind of impact this break had on his output as Dinner, at least until penultimate track “Born Again” gave way to “Drøm.” There is the sound of running water, there are drifting fields of sound, and there is even a synthetic fluty thingy (maybe two). It’s a nice way to end an album, but leading up to that, Dinner is still squarely about the songs. There are synths, but it’s not synth pop. There are surely guitars, but it’s not exactly guitar pop. Indie? Sure, but it doesn’t easily fit into the old-school or new jack varieties. All of this definitely situates Dream Work as a pop-auteur situation that’s only enhanced by a few neo-’80s-isms, the occasional guy-gal harmonies and the distinctive quality of Rhedin voice, his accent adding value. A-

Kira, S/T (Kitten Robot) Kira Roessler is a bass player of distinction, one of the best I’ve heard in fact, with my esteem directly related to her work in the two-bass duo dos alongside her ex-hubby Mike Watt (her work in other contexts is also worthwhile, in particular her role in Black Flag as she replaced Chuck Dukowski). Kira (as she prefers to be called) is also a fine singer (a talent she sharpened in dos) and crafter of songs (with the bass always at the forefront), making her a triple threat (and even more, as she has multiple credits as sound editor for Hollywood films) who’s only gotten around to releasing her debut solo album in 2021. It’s a good one. A damned good one, even. Although she gets a little help from her friends (and production assistance from her brother Paul), this is firmly Kira’s show, the ten tracks unwinding with a relaxed maturity that still holds the power to captivate. At a few moments, I was reminded of Kim Gordon, though Kira’s work here is pretty firmly rooted in songs. Still her rock bona fides shine through, as she maximizes the potential of her instrument throughout. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICK: Lena Platonos, Balancers (Dark Entries) The discography of Greek pianist and composer Platonos is extensive and begins in the early 1980s, with its fruits falling solidly into the electronic basket, but with clear arty and outright experimental tendencies. She’s particularly noted for three releases, Sun’s Masks (’84), Galop (’85), and Lepidoptera (’86), which have all been reissued by Dark Entries, along with three 12-inch EPs devoted to contemporary remixes of her work. Balancers offers 14 tracks, all unreleased and likely to tempt fans of avant-electronics, especially as the timeframe, specifically ’82-’85, overlaps with the above albums. The reality is that without a specific pointer to the age of these recordings, I would’ve been hard pressed to nail down their era. This lack of datedness is appreciated, as is the range; there are rhythms, but they don’t run rampant. I quite like the numerous tracks where Platonos recites poetry in Greek. During “Now, While You Wait for Your Love,” she even breaks into song. A-

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

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Sean Conly, The Buzz (577) Unsurprising for a bassist in contemporary jazz, Conly has extensive appearances on records but a tighter discography as a leader or co-leader. He is part of numerous combos that have yet to hit studios, however. His interactive ingenuity shines out brightly here, with pianist Leo Genovese and Francisco Mela on board for a 10-track set (available on vinyl, CD, and digital) with six of the compositions Conly’s; they also tackle pieces by his frequent collaborator Michael Attias, Paul Motion, Sam Rivers, and Sondheim in a closing reading of “Send In the Clowns.” After multiple listens, it seems the bassist’s billing derives from his authorship of the tunes. As said, Conly is wonderfully expressive (and big in a vibrant recording) but so is Mela and Genovese as the three excel in the tried-and-true piano trio format. Yes, the ties to various traditions are strong, but it’s also crystal clear that The Buzz is the byproduct of minds at the forefront of jazz music’s 21st century flourishing. It’s an LP that’s inviting yet rigorous and an utter treat throughout. A

V/A, Sacred Soul of North Carolina (Bible & Tire Recording Co.) Bruce Watson’s newest label hits a home run with this collection of African American gospel, thematically tight yet invigorating in its diversity, all from Eastern North Carolina, and with the entirety recorded across eight days in February of 2020 in a studio assembled in the storefront of a 100-year-old building in the town of Fountain. Anybody conversant with the long history of Hot Gospel will appreciate how these eleven groups extend the style while exuding vitality that registers as thoroughly of the moment. In this case, “of the moment” is not the same thing as contemporary, though the soulfulness that runs through these 18 selections is still very much relevant to modern music. But what makes this comp so vital is skill honed through passion and community-strengthening conviction. The range of Faith & Harmony’s two tracks, the first an a cappella knockout and the second an organ-rich full band-backed groover is indicative of the whole. Sacred Soul of North Carolina is a non-stop delight, available on 2LP, CD, and digital. A

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Tito Arevalo, Mad Doctor of Blood Island OST (Real Gone) The first of two Halloween-appropriate soundtracks culled from the vast reservoir of psychotronic grindhouse (or drive-in, depending on the part of the country you’re from) exploitation cheapies. I know Mad Doctor of Blood Island only by its sketchy reputation. Released in 1969, it’s the second film in the Blood Island saga, and in OST terms, this one is likely the most interesting. I come to this speculative conclusion based on Filipino composer Arevalo’s score being reused in the next two Blood Island installments, 1970’s Beast of Blood and ’71’s Brain of Blood, though Mad Doctor’s is the only one that’s fully orchestral. There are also multiple sequences that reinforce Arevalo is being a non-hack, and I’m not just talking about the pieces that can be described as Horror Exotica (to borrow Real Gone’s term). Quite enjoyable if a tad repetitive. Added value: a killer radio spot for the film and its excerpted opening, which features a William Castle-style “drink this vial of green blood” audience gimmick. Those were the days. B+

William Lava, Dracula Vs. Frankenstein OST (Real Gone) Unlike the above, I have watched Dracula Vs. Frankenstein, once many years ago. If I said it was forgettable, I’d be lying. Dracula had a ring that shot flames. Frankenstein was in wheelchair. There were hippies. Bikers. Russ Tamblyn. Lon Chaney Jr. And a carnival on a boardwalk. But memorable doesn’t necessarily equal good. That Al Adamson, one of more enduring figures in the history of exploitation films, directed, helped a bit (this movie reportedly began as a sequel to Adamson’s Satan’s Sadists, which explains the bikers and Tamblyn), but please don’t get the idea that Drac Vs. Frank is some kind of trash masterpiece. Lava’s soundtrack is solid and with moments of distinctiveness, e.g., touches of vibraphone, weird note slides (at one point mingling with some aggressively blown tuba), and even a few cascades of harp. The alternate takes are worthwhile, especially the “Jazz Chase” sequence (which was unused in the film). Also features a radio spot: “Yesterday they were cold and dead, today they are hot and bothered…Rated PG…B+

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

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: William Hooker, Big Moon (Org Music) Drummer, composer, and bandleader William Hooker is one of the great (and somewhat undersung) explorers in contemporary jazz, a reality that’s been apparent for quite a while but was reinforced by his excellent 2019 release, also for ORG, Symphonie of Flowers. This 83-minute set is its follow-up, with Hooker drumming and also conducting a group that includes such august names as flautist Charles Compo (who has played with Hooker since the early 1990s), pianists Mara Rosenbloom and Mark Hennen, saxophonists Stephen Gauci and Sarah Manning, bassist Jai-Rohm Parker Wells, percussionist Jimmy Lopez, and on synthesizer, Theo Woodward. The sparks of free jazz collectivity do fly at various points across this set, so if post-Fire Music power moves are what you seek, please step right up. But Hooker’s concept encompasses much more, and the group is up to the task. Big Moon is intended to be absorbed as a single work, so why not wait for the vinyl to arrive (it’s currently scheduled for 12/17) and get all 11 tracks. It’s a beauty. A

Howlin Rain, The Dharma Wheel (Silver Current) Comprised of guitarist and lead vocalist Ethan Miller, guitarist Daniel Cervantes, bassist Jeff McElroy, and drummer Justin Smith, Oakland’s Howlin Rain have delivered a fresh serving of their distinctive spin on psych-informed, prog-tinged, occasionally funk-grooved, jam rock. The thing to know if you don’t know Howlin Rain is that they engage with their aesthetic wholeheartedly, so that a listener will almost certainly either lovingly embrace the unbridled anthemics of “Under the Wheels,” or wholly reject them. As should be obvious, I fall into the former category, partly as an appreciator of the form, but also due to the sincerity factor. It’s obvious the band loves this sound for all the right reasons. The keyboards of Adam McDougall considerably enhance the ’70s aura, but maybe the sweetest surprise is the guest violin from Scarlet Rivera (she’s the first sound heard in opener “Prelude” and returns for late track “Annabelle”). Sporting cover art by Arik Roper, The Dharma Wheel will likely sound best while drinking cheap keg beer during a field party. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICK: Mujician, 10 10 10 (Cuneiform) With Keith Tippett on piano, Paul Dunmall on reeds, Paul Rogers on bass, and Tony Levin on drums, Mujician were one of the true delights of European jazz, a UK supergroup that consistently satisfied while being built to last. I use the past tense, as Levin died in 2010 shortly after the recording of this album. Tippett passed just last year. To really drive home the integral nature of live playing to the jazz experience, please consider that Mujician debuted on record in 1990 with The Journey, that album capturing a performance from the Bath Festival from the same year, and that Mujician’s next three records were also all live documents; they didn’t cut a proper studio album until Colours Fulfilled (produced by Evan Parker) in 1997, nearly a decade after they’d formed. 10 10 10 is a studio release as well, but it was notably recorded while the band was on tour.

That is, Mujician were in the thick of heightened creative communication as these two long tracks, 25+ minutes for the title selection, and nearly 31 for “Remember,” were recorded, both engineered by Jonathan Scott in the Victoria Room at the University of Bristol Music Studios. The familiarity and assurance lend increased breadth to their sound, along with the excitement of fresh possibilities and a wide range of emotion. Plus, there is a sense of order to the proceedings, even at their most abstract, and there is warmth that insures 10 10 10 never registers as merely an academic exercise. Due to his time spent in King Crimson, Tippett is surely the best known of Mujician’s members, with the prolific Dunmall (with his bagpipes a welcome twist in “Remember”) a close second, but there is no undercurrent of hierarchy here, Mujician are truly a leaderless group in the tradition of the Art Ensemble of Chicago. Described as their last studio recording, it maintains the high standard of the group’s prior work. A

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

Part five 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, part three is here, and part four is here.

NEW RELEASE PICK: V/A, Voodoo Rhythm Label Compilation Vol. 5 (Voodoo Rhythm) This Swiss label is run by Beat Zeller, aka The Beat-Man, aka The Reverend Beat-Man, aka a beautifully twisted cat if ever one was (though we’ve never met). Burrowing into a stylistic zone that’s not far from the great Billy Childish, except it’s swampier and more bluesy (and with flashes of strangeness that are almost Beefheartian), The Beat-Man has been cranking out steaming hot hunks of rant and distortion since the 1980s, with the Voodoo Rhythm label commencing operations in 1992 to document his own prolificacy plus records by those of a similar temperament. The discography now runs well into the hundreds. As I’ve only been soaking up Voodoo Rhythm’s wares for the last 5-6 years, I haven’t heard it all, but it’s still been long enough to have gotten acquainted with a sizable percentage of what’s on this comp. Chances are you haven’t, so let’s give it a rundown.

Right up front, there’s the garage-punk stomp of the Beat-Man’s band The Monsters, followed by the drum-box punk thud of the Bad Mojos, and then some trash dumpster Troggs action from Destination Lonely. There’s the reverb drenched punk-blues throb of Sloks, a zonked busker-billy Venom cover by Rev. Beat-Man and Izobel Garcia, the demented retro-pop of Garcia’s own track, and then a strong dose of Chess Records-inspired punk pound by Trixie and the Trainwrecks. And with the Tom Waits vibes of Degurutieni, things get even more interesting. There’s the decidedly KBD-like track by Nestter Donuts, an ode to well-lubed onanism by Sex Organs, the acid-bent Gibson Bros. fumes of Roy and the Devil’s Motorcycle, a fuzz-punk rave-up by The Devils, the twisted trio chug of E.T. Explore Me, the moody, dare I say goth blues of Honshu Wolves, and a Jimbo Mathus-like closer by The Dead Brothers. And it’s all grooved into a picture disc. My normal reaction to picture discs is to stick those fuckers on the roof, but this one looks pretty cool. It sounds even better. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Little Willie John, The Complete R&B Hit Singles (Real Gone) Back in 2012, Real Gone released Complete Hit Singles A’s & B’s as a 2CD set, a 32-track collection that remains the heavyweight champ in spotlighting this undeservedly neglected R&B (and Soul, and R&R) pioneer. Prior to Real Gone’s endeavor, there had been a few solid single disc comps of his stuff, but the beauty of A’s & B’s is that the flips were far from forgettable as they instead reinforced the man’s versatility and energy. And it wasn’t even all of John’s essential stuff. Well. A’s & B’s looks to be out of print (though a copy can probably be located without parting with too much scratch). This set, which appears to be the first vinyl release in John’s discography since the ’80s, offers just the charting songs, 17 in total, and if it isn’t as deep an experience as the 2CD, it’s still a pleasurable ride as it delivers an abbreviated survey of the guy’s growth. And I’d say it’s a cinch that many vinyl-loving R&B aficionados that already own A’s & B’s will be picking up the wax as well, so my advice is to grab a copy sooner rather than later. A

Baligh Hamdi, Modal Instrumental Pop of 1970s Egypt (Sublime Frequencies) This ever-dependable label does it again, with a superb collection (and first-time reissue) of this crucial Egyptian composer and bandleader’s work. The 2LP (with gatefold and insert) isn’t scheduled to arrive until 11/19, but the CD (in digipak with 12-pg booklet) is out tomorrow, and anybody with an interest in 20th century global sounds will want a copy. There are sitars aplenty, but also Omar Khorshid on guitar as part of Hamdi’s Diamond Orchestra. Organ, accordion, saxophone and even a Theremin are part of an Indio-Arabic equation that’s rhythmically driving and ceaselessly inventive. Hamdi was a Modernizer and also a hybridizer, tapping into jazz, rock (those guitar solos), and even Exotica but without any kitsch ambiance. There are also plenty of stretches that can be described as psychedelic, but they’re strengthened by a seeming lack of deliberateness in this regard on Hamdi’s part. Similar to other Sublime Frequencies collections, track 19 is as engaging as track one. In fact, closer “Love Story” is one of the best cuts. A

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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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