Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores, July
2018, Part One

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Claire Morales, All That Wanting (Self-released) Following up 2015’s Amaranthine, this is LP #2 from singer-songwriter-guitarist Morales, but it serves as my introduction. Comparisons to Angel Olsen and PJ Harvey are what sparked my interest, and while I can understand (indeed, hear) the similarities, I’m left with a favorable impression through strength of voice, quality of tune, and ambition realized most fully in the consecutive “Diane I” and “Diane II.” Plus, the sharp interplay with guitarist Alex Hastings, bassist Ryan Williams, and drummer Russ Connell (the last two returning from her debut) adds heft, but just as importantly, opens up the songs. Morales can effectively scale it back however, as on “Golden” and “Enough,” and she’s a commanding presence throughout. A-

Hamish Kilgour, Finklestein (Ba Da Bing) Kilgour is a member of New Zealand post-VU indie-rock royalty The Clean. The Mad Scene, his ’90s outfit with Lisa Siegel, was often terrific, and ’14 brought the appealing loner vibe of his solo debut All of It and Nothing. This follow-up, based on a story by Kilgour that he would tell his son, is also swell, but given the specifics of its conception, markedly different. For one thing, the range of instrumentation is broader, with much of the record leaning into lo-fi psych-pop. But it’s not a radical change, as he’s again working with producer Gary Olson, who also plays on the disc. Furthermore, “Welcome to Finklestein” is reminiscent of The Clean in keyboard mode, and maybe it’s just me, but the brief “Opening” recalls Tall Dwarfs’ “Louis Likes His Daily Dip.” And that’s great. A-

ARCHIVAL/REISSUE PICKS: Adonis, Marshall Jefferson, Frankie Knuckles, Mr. Fingers, Trax Records 45s (Get on Down) These four 7-inches are available either individually or as a bundle through Get on Down’s website as part of the label’s Jukebox Series, but they are certainly also obtainable in stores, at least temporarily. As fans of electronic club music will be snatching up these prime artifacts from House Music’s ’80s emergence, longevity in the bins is surely finite, especially as they aren’t straight reissues of higher-profile later (and longer) mixes, but original versions. To these ears, Jefferson’s “Move Your Body” b/w “Drum Your Body,” which nods to the style’s eventual commercial inroads, is the least of the bunch, but it lowers the collective quality only slightly; the contents deserve to be graded together. A-

Dave Evans, The Words in Between (Earth Recordings) Here’s a repress of Evans’ 1971 debut (shorn of the bonus cuts added to an earlier reissue), and it offers as much sweet folky fingerpicking as a sensible mind could ask for. Very much an exponent of the Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Ralph McTell, Wizz Jones style of Brit folksong (with a few touches of Nick Drake in the mix, as well), Evans’ Welsh accent and the occasional harmony vocals of Adrienne Webber lend a degree of distinctiveness. Some have criticized Evans’ songwriting (all ten are originals; even his guitar is homemade), but it all sounds fine to me, as the whole really captures the spirit of the time; as the record was cut in fellow folkie Ian A. Anderson’s house and released on the independent The Village Thing label, I’ll declare it sounds especially fine. A-

Michael Beharie and Teddy Rankin-Parker, A Heart from Your Shadow (Mondoj) For their first collaboration, guitarist-composer Beharie and cellist Rankin-Parker opt for composition over improvisation, and the results are strikingly varied, occasionally within a single piece; right off the bat, “Intro” jump cuts from placid orchestration to harsher, industrial-like textures. Throughout this concise LP, abstraction and unforced strangeness are abundant; I’m quite fond of the tribal thrust of “Gully,” the shifting global drift of “Fake Money,” the retro-futurist electro aura of “Roses,” and the raw atmospherics of “Icon,” but nothing here registers as disappointing. That Jim O’Rourke mixed the record and James Plotkin did the mastering hopefully makes clear the duo isn’t fucking around. A-   

Coletivo Vandalismo, “Urubus Fall From The Dying Sun In An Improvised Manner” (Contort Yourself) Thus far, my experience with Contort Yourself has been via reissues of ’80s industrial/ experimental/ DIY/ post-punk u-ground material, and I’ve been pleased. However, when labels with sharp archival tastes choose to dabble in the new, the results can often be less than stellar. This 6-song effort, the first in a series of 12-inchers from contempo artists, makes plain that I needn’t have worried. By the evidence here (there’s a prior LP I haven’t heard) Portuguese duo Coletivo Vandalismo like to combine the noisy side of industrial with dancefloor techno’s incessant throb motion. A bit like a sturdy 2AM DJ set injected with a smidge of Wolf Eyes, this blows the doors off most industrial dance stuff. A-

Gossamer, Imperishable (Innovative Leisure) Los Angelino Evan Reiner is Gossamer; this is his second album, and the first I’ve heard. Along with studying at Berklee School of Music, Reiner is said to have a background, or at least an interest in, hip-hop, but that’s not really detectible in the music presented here, which touches down in the realm of ambient soundscapes. Reiner’s also described as a field-recorder, but this pleasantly tidy LP doesn’t evince any New Age or nature clichés, though “Ansel Adams Wilderness” does make it into the promo description. But Steve Reich gets mentioned as well, and Gossamer doesn’t immediately bring that comparison to mind, either. Overall, the tranquil but engaging Imperishable does lean toward the experimental, “II Path to Understanding,” in particular. B+

Grupo Mono Blanco, ¡Fandango! Sones Jarochos from Veracruz (Smithsonian Folkways) Due in no small part to Gilberto Gutiérrez Silva, the traditions of son jarocho, a centuries-old style from the Veracruz region of Mexico, have been researched, studied and revived for the benefit of the eternal now. For Silva and his fellow players (many from younger generations), it’s been a decades-long ever-evolving process, and while some prior recordings have been made, the focus has largely been on the fandango, an experience better described as a community gathering than as standard performance. A major facet in Grupo Mono Blanco’s success derives from combining tradition with newer, relatable themes, and the string-based playing, including a 30-string harp, is consistently beautiful and often energetic. A

Hologram Teen, Between the Funk and the Fear (Polytechnic Youth) After a couple singles, this is the full-length debut from Morgane Lhote, who for a long time was a keyboardist in Stereolab. This came out on vinyl last autumn but is just arriving digitally on July 6; vinyl copies of the edition of 500 are still available, but with the fresh wave of promotion I can’t imagine they will be much longer. Is it worth the search for Stereolab fans? Well, that would depend on how much they dig the atmospheres of synth-disco, Italo-horror soundtracks, and the music of John Carpenter (I would venture to guess that’s a significant percentage). I liked but was not blown away by Lhote’s debut single (included here) and follow-up “Marsangst” (which isn’t), but due to the longer duration I’m digging this a tad more. B+

Ryan Martin, Gimme Some Light (High Moon) Martin’s debut For All the Beautiful Losers came out via High Moon in 2013 and seems to have flown a little under the radar. I base this observation largely on his bright, big, somewhat rootsy but classically rocking sound. It’s an approach, with the cited inspirations of Neil, Bruce, Gillian Welch, and Ryan Adams, that clearly has the potential for wide appeal. His sophomore effort rounds up well over a dozen contributors in aid of a sharper batch of songs, with the results consistently likeable and occasionally even better. Martin has range, but I generally prefer his more urgent material, with “Say You Love Me” a melodic rock gem. There’s a lot of country shading here, and while I’d like a little more grit, it goes down alright. Vinyl is deluxe, with three extra tracks. B+

Nicholas Merz, The Limits of Men (Aagoo) For six albums, Merz has been the frontman for Seattle’s Darto, but he steps out here with his first solo effort, and folks amenable to his prior activities will surely find it of interest. Darto are tough to classify, though contempo psych-rock fits (and is backed up by a recent split single with Wand). This LP is decidedly nearer to the singer-songwriter root, with a few country-rock flourishes and Nick Cave a discernible but thankfully non-labored point of reference. Merz also gets compared to Iggy Pop here, but that seems mainly due to cadence; after time spent, thoughts of Bill Callahan haven’t abated. “Domestic Dispute,” a duet with bandmate Candace Harter, is a highlight, and the stated spaghetti western moves unwind less detrimentally than I anticipated. B+

Meuko! Meuko!, 鬼島 Ghost Island (Danse Noire) The PR for this CD employs a creative tactic, eschewing the typical info rundown and praise assemblage and instead offering a “dreamscape” (smartly, it’s also on the release’s Bandcamp page). Thankfully, a short bio was provided, as I knew bupkis about Meuko! Meuko! After reading it and researching the web, I still feel underinformed, which is likely by design. Taipei-based, Mueko has an indie pop background, but she also DJs, with a show on NTS Radio Monthly. This looks to be her third release, and its electronic gist, loaded with layering, rhythms, looping, varied sampling, ambience, booming synthetic bass, fragments of noise, and vocals, seems to be Meuko striving for the “out-there.” I like it. I like that dreamscape, too. B+    

Red Baraat, Sound the People (Rhyme and Reason) I enjoyed Red Baraat’s 2017 album Bhangra Pirates, but I’m digging their latest even more, in part because it expands the potency of their socially-focused Bhangra party sound even further. With production by Little Shalimar (noted for working with Run the Jewels) and the group’s founder-leader-dhol player Sunny Jain, in rhythm and brass terms, the recipe remains sharp, while the integration of expansive psych elements flows naturally and connects subtly rather than sticking out as stitched-on. Just as importantly, so do the guest spots from Pakistani vocalist Ali Sethi, poet-activist Suheir Hammad, Das Racist’s Heems on the centerpiece title-track, and writer-humorist John Hodgman on the rousing finale of increasing strangeness “Punjaub March.” A-

Ana Silvera, Oracles (Gearbox) In 2011, the arts venue Roundhouse in London commissioned Silvera to create a choral piece that would feature the entity’s experimental choir. The following year her seven-part song cycle was debuted and subsequently nominated for a British Composer’s Award. In 2015, she retuned to the Roundhouse to make a live recording with fresh personnel. This is the result, and it comes with the art-folk attributes which often get Silvera compared to Björk and Kate Bush. It’s really the latter that I’m reminded of most, which lands this in pleasant territory, even as the needles of fragility and wispiness (employing a fairy tale arc, Silvera was inspired by Hans Christian Anderson and Nordic myths and legends) often hover in the red, accumulating into a minor limitation. B+   

Los Texmaniacs, Cruzando Borders (Smithsonian Folkways) Formed by Bajo Sexto guitarist and Texas Tornado Max Baca with his nephew Josh Baca now on accordion, conjunto stylists Los Texmaniacs’ won a Grammy in 2010 for Borders y Bailes. For this CD, the songs are largely focused on Mexican-American border life, which naturally includes immigration; amongst the selections are “I Am a Mexican” (sung by its writer Rick Treviño), Woody Guthrie’s “Deportee” (sung by Lyle Lovett), “Across the Borderline” (noted for prior versions by Willie Nelson and fellow Texas Tornado Freddy Fender), and opener “Mexico Americano” (a standard cut previously by Los Lobos). While accordion is far from my favorite instrument, the richness of execution and overall theme make this one a stirring, timely success. A-

V/A, Fabyl: Arrival (Fabyl) Unlike Coletivo Vandalismo and Meuko! Meuko! above, this CD comp and second release on Nick Faber’s new label isn’t attempting to disrupt, get abrasive or hang out on any fringe. It just strives to hit the groove, or what the promo text calls “old skool block rocking,” bullseye. And so, this falls pretty firmly in the tradition of Chemical Brothers and Fatboy Slim overall, but if not edgy, the contents are reliably inventive. Although it begins with the nicely done and vocally focused title cut from Faber’s 12-inch (which is Fabyl001, positively reviewed here a couple of weeks back), I mostly prefer the tracks where singing takes a back seat (or exits the vehicle entirely, even). Crucially, nothing here fumbles the flow. The Mike Coleman Congregation’s “Jazz, Oh No” takes the prize. B+

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