Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores, June
2018, Part Two

Part two of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for June, 2018. Part one is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Eartheater, IRISIRI (PAN) New Yorker Alexandra Drewchin is Eartheater, and this is her third release and first for Pan after a couple for the Hausu Mountain label. As she possesses a three-octave vocal range, you might assume she’d place this ability front and center and then leave it there, but for a fair amount of IRISIRI an intriguing instrumental blend of experimentation and digital textures (sometimes leaning toward the ambience of electronica) basks in the foreground. However, it’s not like Drewchin’s elected to subvert her strength as a vocalist; when those pipes get asserted, the results are a powerful and integral component in an oft-surreal cascade of newness. And yet subtle. Additionally, poetical contributions from guests Odwalla1221 and Moor Mother fit right into the advanced weave. A

Patrick Higgins, Dossier (Other People) Composer-producer Higgins is noted for his guitar presence in the New York ensemble Zs, an outfit he joined in 2012, at the same time as Guardian Alien’s Greg Fox. But hey, the gent has a slew of his own credits, including the String Quartet No.2 + Glacia 2LP (2013) and the Social Death Mixtape cassette (2015). This combo of guitar and live custom electronics is his latest, and it’s a doozy. All of the four-part work’s programming is original and performed live with no overdubs, as the samples, conceived specifically for this project, are executed with midi triggers mapped to the guitar. Other People’s press release calls the results post-apocalyptic, and I’m with it. The 18-minute final section, loaded with string-wiggle, soaring tones, and vocal samples, is an utter delight. A

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Gene Clark, Sings for You (Omnivore) After Clark left The Byrds in ‘66, he recorded the very cool Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers for Columbia. It fell far short of commercial expectations and the company lost interest, which prompted the man to cut some demos intended to spark the curiosity of labels. Those sessions are the first eight tracks on this CD/ 2LP set, and it’s an especially valuable unveiling, as Clark’s profusely flowing song fount during this period meant that none of this material turned up on his subsequent album for A&M. Plus, even more goodness comes through the rediscovery of an acetate of his songs from the same period given to the band The Rose Garden (more on them down below). Altogether, a glorious new gulp of Clark, and in prime form. A

Mouvements, S/T (Mental Experience) Originally released in 1973 in a boxed edition of 150 with inserts and lithographs by artist Richard Reimann and sold only in art galleries, this Swedish hybrid of avant-garde, out jazz and art-psych-prog rock was organized by guitarist Christian Oestreicher. It’s an eye-opening pleasure in its reissued LP form (minus box and lithos for affordability, though there is an informative interview with Oestreicher) and loses no creative steam across the five CD bonus tracks or the four digital-only extras (worry not, everything’s downloadable with purchase of the vinyl). Considering the nearly 100-minute running time, this is impressive. The prevalent violin of Blaise Català can bring Hot Rats to mind, but much more is happening here, including a cool Soft Machine vibe. A-

Marisa Anderson, Cloud Corner (Thrill Jockey) Sporting a cover reminiscent of (but likely not an homage to) Fleetwood Mac’s Bare Trees (Danny Kirwan RIP), Anderson’s latest is another instrumental guitar gem, with this (again) self-produced effort offering stylistic range that’s unified around its intention as a refuge in a tumultuous time. The results do nothing to diminish Anderson’s strengths as an extender of tradition, or better said in this case, traditions, as two of the highlights here, “Slow Ascent” and “Surfacing,” are influenced by the Taureg guitar style of Northern Africa. This element brings a touch of psych to the proceedings, and it’s an addition that complements rather than sticks out amid the expansive fingerpicking, slide work, sturdy electric tones, and the deft integration of keyboard. Neat-o. A

Gui Boratto, Pentagram (Kompakt) Here’s the fifth studio album from Mr. Boratto, who’s rated as an important figure in the hotbed of Brazilian dancefloor techno, at least according to Kompakt’s press release, where his 2007 debut Chromophobia gets assessed as a “breakthrough” that “shook up” the field. Bluntly, I prefer my electronica on the edgier side (which is where much of Kompakt’s catalog resides), but after spending some time with Pentagram, my ears told me the label’s not overstating the case. Unquestionably, a lot of the material here is suitable for clubs (or your living room), especially the sleek and energetic “Hallucination,” but there’s also more going on, and with varied levels of success; I enjoyed the John Barry-ish “Scene 2” but was less swayed by the vocal pop turn “The Phoenix.” B

Cuasares, Afro-Progresivo (Pharaway Sounds) The handiwork of Argentinian Waldo Belloso, Afro-Progresivo was initially released in ’73 in a tiny edition on the short-lived Pias label. Today, it sells for hundreds due to its blend of Afro-Latin progressions, psychedelia, fusion, and library sounds. The label calls the results wild and esoteric, and while there are moments deserving of those adjectives, I sure wish there were more. The promised acid fuzz guitar is also present, though Tomás Gubitsch’s Santana-like motions keep matters from getting especially out there. I do like how the group shifts gears from library funk (with fluttering “psych” flute) to a slower groove in the opening title track, and also dig the recurring use of marimba. The knotty Latin excursion “Simbiosis” closes this short LP on a high note. B

Dos Santos, Logos (International Anthem) This Chicago quintet’s progressive Latin stew is edgy and at times even psychedelic, but maybe their greatest strength lies in the seamless integration of the classic and the contemporary. If International Anthem had missed the boat on releasing this LP (Dos Santos have prior 45s on Sonorama Discos and Electric Cowbell), it wouldn’t have been a bit surprising to find them on Thrill Jockey, though an even better fit would’ve been Glitterbeat (home of Orkesta Mendoza and Mambo Cósmico). Hopefully this drives home the freshness and roots verve on offer here, as well as the diversity; the label portrays them as both street party capable and adept at experimental cumbia, and I can feel it. The musicianship, with Ben LaMar Gay and the Antibalas horns guesting, is superb. A-

Palberta, Roach Goin’ Down (Wharf Cat) Overall, Palberta can be described as Brit post-punk and DIY-inspired; at least that’s how I sized them up in connection to their recent split LP with No One and the Somebodies, and the approach persists on this 22-track affair (23 if you snatch up one of the 50 copies that comes with a bonus flexi). The associations from the label’s RIYL list that resonate most strongly are Raincoats and Kleenex/ LiLiput, though there are occasional flashes of art-groove amid the angularity that underscores their US citizenship; it’s almost like they’re a distant cousin of Pylon or something, and I appreciate that very much. Also mentioned in that RIYL is the Minutemen, and while they don’t sound alike, there’s a tightness in Palberta’s looseness that reinforces the connection. Fine stuff. A-

Posies, Dear 23 (Omnivore) This reissue of the 1990 major label debut from The Posies is all about presenting you, the hypothetical power-pop enthusiast, with options. Vinyl lover? Well, Omnivore’s 2LP, mastered at 45RPM, has you covered like a slanket. Already own, and instead covet the bonus material, nearly all of which is fresh out of the can? Then the 2CD is the way to go. The caveat is that due to licensing restrictions, the wax comes sans download, so choose wisely. Regarding the songs, they appeal to me more now than they did way back then, which is the case with power-pop in general, especially when it’s as uninhibitedly melodious as this. Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow’s involvement with Big Star should be the tipoff to how worthy The Posies are in genre terms, though Dear 23 is no mere copy. A-

Pyramid, S/T (Mental Experience) Some remain convinced that the outpouring of ’70s German u-ground rock material from Toby Robinson’s super-micro ’70s Pyramid label is a tremendously well-executed exercise in fakery, partly because no originals have ever turned up for sale, and I wouldn’t stake my life (or five bucks) on the music’s “legitimacy,” mainly because the sounds, and this 35-minute slab of Floyd/ Agitation Free/ Amon Düül II/ Cosmic Jokers-styled space-rock in particular, can seem a little too good to be true. However, The Crack in the Cosmic Egg co-author and Mental Experience’s man in charge of liner notes for these releases Alan Freeman engages with the material as real, and I’ve no reason to quibble. Bottom line: if you dig the style and aren’t a stickler for authenticity you’ll want this stuff in your life. A-

The Rose Garden, A Trip Through the Garden: The Rose Garden Collection (Omnivore) Originally named The Blokes, this Los Angeles outfit was so adept at covers of The Byrds that Gene Clark gave them an acetate of five songs to choose from for their debut recording (they chose two, “Long Time” and “Till Today”). Adding a member, a name change was in order, as vocalist Diana de Rose was not a bloke. She was capable at the mic however, with husky tones that steered The Rose Garden (geddit?) toward Mamas/Papas-style folk-tinged harmony pop for their modest (and only) hit single “Next Plane to London.” You may remember that one, as it was pretty good (Glen Campbell thought so, too). Their LP for Atco has some moments and lacks in the embarrassing, as does this one-stop discographical CD. B+

Round Eye, Monster Vision (Sudden Death) This came out in 2017 but didn’t hit my mailbox until a couple of months back, by which point it wasn’t really “new” anymore. However, this Shanghai-based band, largely made up of US expats, is touring the States in July, and their latest, issued on the label of D.O.A.’s Joey Shithead, is very much of interest. The style is art-punk, from their distant perch quite concerned with the current dodgy goings-on in the USA, and yet suitable for partying, with a raucous R&B edge enhanced by the sax of Steve Mackay (notably, the Stooge’s last recordings). Sporting a sleeve reminiscent of Ralph Records and late ’70s L.A. punk-wave, the art-punk leans toward “trash-culture punk” due to a generous helping of Joe Bob Briggs. If inconsistent, there’s a high ratio of success. B+

Shanna Sordahl, Radiate Don’t Fear the Quietus (Full Spectrum) Sordahl is a Bay Area sound artist-composer-cellist-electronics specialist, and this cassette, described as a “personal meditation on the depth and timelessness of memory,” appears to be her solo debut. However, she’s worked with Wrekmeister Harmonies and the esteemed avant-gardist Alvin Lucier while appearing on releases by Chuck Johnson, Sarah Davachi, and three by Full Spectrum co-founder Andrew Weathers. Like others on the current scene, Sordahl uses a Buchla synth, but it’s only one component in an arsenal of devices which help to formulate engaging breadth across these six pieces. And yet, the whole is quite focused, with her plentiful cello playing a consistent strongpoint. A vinyl edition would be the crackers. A

Stuart A. Staples, Arrhythmia (City Slang) The first solo album in 13 years (and third overall) for Tindersticks singer-guitarist Staples holds four tracks, but don’t get the idea that it’s slight or indulgent. That side two’s “Music for ‘A year in small paintings’” tops 30 minutes and is all instrumental might seem odd for a guy with songwriting talent as sharp and a voice as rich and distinctive as his, but the finished piece, which soundtracks the artworks of painter (and Staples’ partner) Suzanne Osborne (her paintings and his music figure in Claire Denis’ recent film Un beau soliel interieur, a title questionably translated as Let the Sunshine In) is a smartly constructed treat (featuring strings by the Julian Siegel Quartet). Side one’s three tracks are both familiar and strange, which is a swell combination. A-

Temple, S/T (Mental Experience) Like the Pyramid LP above, this derives from the catalogue of Toby Robinson’s label of the same name, though in contrast to the discography’s bolder Krautrock motions, a fair portion of this nods toward Hawkwind, and that’s cool, but with occasional plunges into dark psych-folk and even flashes of proto Goth rock; in the liners, Alan Freeman notes the similarity of the male vocalist Poseidon (!) to Dave Vanian of The Damned and also references Dead Can Dance, and hey, that’s cool, too. However, the whole in no way diverges from ’70s Germanic rock activities, as various moments recall Amon Düül II, Can, Ash Ra Tempel, and even Popul Vuh. Pauline Fund’s voice is a highlight, as is Pyramid’s scrappier contrast to Krautrock’s more elaborate achievements. B+

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