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

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Alec K. Redfearn and The Eyesores, The Opposite (Cuneiform) After a short hiatus, Silver Spring’s venerable avant-prog-experimental-jazz label is back at it, and along with digitally reissuing prior material by this always interesting Providence, RI-based band, they offer the outfit’s latest on LP and CD. It’s a treat. Over their 20-year existence, Redfearn and cohorts have stood out a bit in Cuneiform’s general scheme (this is their fourth for the label), but upon listening here, they and Steve Feigenbaum’s enduring love of art-rock remain a perfect fit. Redfearn plays accordion, and his knack for keeping it in the forefront of his music while eradicating even a hint of novelty remains impressive. Those keen on ambitiousness in the rock sphere should definitely lend this one some time. A-

Sarah Borges & the Broken Singles, Love’s Middle Name (Blue Corn) Borges has been on the scene for a while, with prior efforts with the Broken Singles and solo in her discography. The sound? It’s been called Americana (she’s won an Americana Music Award, in fact), but it’s important to qualify that hers is an approach well-suited for humid, boozy weekend bars. That means it rocks, and the thrust here is maybe better tagged as country-punk. What distinguishes Borges from some with a similar inclination is the quality of her songs and the strength of her pipes, and on this new one, the smart choice of hooking up with producer Eric Ambel, who also plays lead guitar on the record (as he did in Joan Jett’s Blackhearts). The outcome is that all the elements are in fine balance, with nary a misstep. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: The Fall, I Am Kurious Orang (Beggars Arkive) If memory serves, anti-Brix-era sentiment reached something like its apex post-The Franz Experiment in early ’88; certainly, there were some who’d suggested Mark E. Smith was “over with” or had “sold out.” Emerging in the autumn of the same year, this set, created to accompany a ballet by the Michael Clark Company loosely based on the life and “psyche” of William of Orange, made it plain those negative assessments were balderdash. Having listened to this record a ridiculous number of times in the year or so after its release (returning to it intermittently ever since), I know it well, and it hasn’t lost a thing. To my ears, at least half of this is as good as post-Rough Trade Fall gets, and the rest isn’t far behind. That makes it utterly essential. A

The Groundhogs, Blues Obituary (Fire) When it comes to the ’60s wave of Brit blues-rock, I rate The Groundhogs higher than Savoy Brown, Chicken Shack, and even Ten Years After (I’m guessing those nutzo for Alvin Lee will consider this heresy). In fact, I’d rank the ‘hogs as roughly equal to Fleetwood Mac (and another group of readers has just thrown up their hands in disgust). Like the Mac, guitarist Tony TS McPhee, bassist Pete Cruikshank, and drummer Ken Pustelnik moved beyond the blues, and after doing so entered their classic period. But this, the band’s second LP (and trio debut) directly led to that phase. The no-frills punch of the recording, McPhee’s smoking guitar, the air non-reverence combined with good taste, and the sharp trio interaction is a major achievement in itself. A-

Arc Iris, Icon of Ego (Ba Da Bing) & Foggy Lullaby (Self-released) I came to hear the third album from this Providence, RI-based, Jocie Adams-led outfit’s third record, and after a largely favorable response, stuck around and soaked up their “reimagining” of Joni Mitchell’s Blue, which arrived digitally earlier this year and hit vinyl just last month. Icon of Ego is a slab of ambitious, vibrantly eclectic art-pop that in spots brought to mind Kate Bush, Jane Siberry, Joanna Newsom, and Bjork. What it didn’t remind me of was Mitchell, and to an extent, the same is true of Foggy Lullaby, which is unsurprising given the context. But other parts do, as the source inspiration and material shine through (along with finessed passages of Mitchell in conversation). Ego has a few flashes of the grandiose, so Foggy rates a bit higher. B+/ A-

Exit Group, Adverse Habit (Castle Face) When I learned that the Berlin-based Exit Group featured members of Useless Eaters and Dry Erase, their debut landed securely in the “to review” pile. The style is synth-infused post-punk, but beefily delivered courtesy of the reliable foundation of guitar, bass and drums. Considering it in relation to their home base does strengthen the relationship to Germanic post-punk history, but big chunks of this LP also spring from a platform vaguely recalling the UK Fast Product label (think Gang of Four and Scars), and that’s cool. Even cooler is how the sheer energy, at times a bit reminiscent of Thee Oh Sees at their most aggressively precise (but interestingly, less Krautrock-ish), keeps things traveling on a non-retro track. 13 cuts in 26 minutes and not a weak one in the bunch. A-

Giuda, “Get it Over” b/w “Kidz Are Back” (Got Kinda Lost) Rome’s Giuda have been around for a while and are accurately pegged as reveling in pre/ proto-punk ’70s sounds (that they’ve released records on Damaged Goods is no surprise). For this reissue of the band’s debut 2010 7-inch (on the White Zoo label, which goes for some cash when it sells), the A-side dishes some BIG anthemic glam with revved-up guitar, synth injections, handclaps, and late-track vocal enthusiasm that’s worthy of Sweet. I dig it, but not like I do the flip, which is a Berry-descended punk-tinged pub rock ripper that puts this one solidly in the keeper pile. Word from a man who knows is that much reissue goodness is on deck from this label, a bunch of it in a similar ’70s rock mode, so I’m staying tuned. B+

The Hang-Ten Hangmen, This is Boss (Dionysus) As said a couple of columns back regarding Dionysus’ recent spurt of surf vinyl, the existence of this stuff in 2018 serves as a statement on form; that is, it’s a form this Vancouver-based band (and L.A.-based label) loves, with this LP an example of how they feel the form should be preserved. Which then leaves listener reaction; the non-vocal Hangmen are well-mannered enough that they could play a municipality-sponsored weekend block party in your burg without a snag, even when they deliver a little Link Wray action. Maybe it’s just a Canadian thing, but these Hangmen recall the Shadowy Men at times, and that’s alright. I could probably go the rest of my life without hearing another Spag western-inspired instrumental, but the one here isn’t terrible. B

Peter Holsapple Vs. Alex Chilton, The Death of Rock (Omnivore) If you’re a young’un (or just a newcomer) curious to investigate both Holsapple and Chilton and pegging this as a fine one-stop intro to the pair, please resist the impulse and instead just dive into the first two dB’s records and the initial three by Big Star, for this documentation of two greats briefly and casually together at Sam Philips Recording Service in Memphis in 1978 is unmistakably one for the fans. But from within that context, it’s a good one finding the power pop-revering Holsapple and the disgusted with professionalism Chilton at a crossroads. So, if you’re an acolyte of either or both, then step right up, as some sparks do fly. The liner notes also reinforce Chilton’s rep for surly dickishness, though Holsapple handled it well. B+

Holy Hive “This Is My Story” b/w “Blue Light” (Big Crown) Having been struck positively by this latest Big Crown 45, I investigated a little further by checking out “Daybreak,” this NYC three-piece’s prior digital release. The results stand in marked contrast. Where that 6-song effort, now over a year and a half old, blended folk-rock, a tempered psych aura, and the nylon string classical guitar of member Paul Spring, both sides of this follow-up single are more in keeping with the label that pressed it up. Side one is a nifty cover of the Invincibles’ vocal group soul nugget from ’68, with the vibraphone and horn (the latter an aspect of the original) blending nicely with the singing and the crisp rhythmic bed. The original flip carries that vocal group feel into the early ’70s and delivers some good flute. Seriously intriguing. A-

Washington, DC! Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds play DC’s The Anthem on Thursday, October 25—and we’ve got a pair of tickets to award to one of you!

Laraaji, Arji OceAnanda and Dallas Acid, Arrive Without Leaving (Flying Moonlight) NYC’s electric zither specialist Laraaji is a well-known figure in the New Age scene whose output over the years has circulated far beyond the standard meditation and tranquility circles while remaining very much of its essence. More importantly, he’s proven himself to be a productive interactor, doing so here with the Niskayuna, NY-based “sound healer, musician, Reiki master and Dreamwork teacher” Arji OceAnanda and Austin’s synth trio Dallas Acid, everyone hitting the studio in Brooklyn the day after a performance. Laraaji and OceAnanda are frequent collaborators, though this was their first meeting with Dallas Acid. New Age bliss is plentiful, but so’s the vibe of kosmische, and the whole concise journey unfolds quite amiably. A-

Anne Malin, Fog Area (Self-released) This CD/ digital-only release from Anne Malin Ringwalt is something of a concept record. To elaborate, her songs here were inspired by a “emotionally fraught” trip from Massachusetts to Indiana taken with William Ellis Johnson (who plays guitar on and co-produced this set), and specifically their frequent encounter along the way with “Fog Area” road signs. Conceptual, but also to varying degrees surreal, as she draws upon folk, rock, pop (in a late-night love song sense), noise, and touches of electronics, with one track (“Aubade”) coming adorned with comparisons to David Lynch. Ringwalt’s songs are diverse as she fleetingly brings to mind a wide range of contemporaries. In part through her powerful singing, there’s cohesiveness to the whole. B+

tanner menard & Andrew Weathers, wanna live in the world w/a whole face (Full Spectrum) While I haven’t heard all of Full Spectrum’s discography, this CD/ chapbook registers as a likely creative highpoint. It features robust ambient drift by label co-founder Weathers, engaging B&W photos by Rapheal Begay, and line drawings by Sky Duncan (with editing by Maya Weeks and layout by Gretchen Korsmo), and most crucially, striking words both written and spoken by poet menard. The cumulative effect is unapologetically political, as in Weathers’ perspective a radical ideological stance is integral to experimental creation. Bringing it all to fruition are Begay (a community organizer), Duncan (who identifies as queer) and menard (who identifies as non-binary). Enlightening, enlivening and heady. A-

Mongrels, “Over Eggin’ It” b/w “Shoot the Breeze” (Invisible Spies) Brit hip-hop, and my first taste of Sheffield’s Kid Acne (the MC) and Benjamin (the DJ). The A-side establishes a stripped-down but vibrant approach (both musically and lyrically) that’s energetic but not especially hectic, though the beat is wicked with a cool guest (titular) vocal hook by Jason Williamson of Sleaford Mods. The flip’s tense atmosphere strikes me somewhat as a lo-fi descendant of the NYC hip-hop ‘90s, with the guest rhymers Cappo and Juga-Naut enhancing this flavor (though the former does namedrop GG Allin). It’s altogether easily strong enough to lead me back to their 2016 full-length Attack the Monolith (still available on vinyl). Those into the hip-hop fringe who aren’t already into Mongrels might want to do the same. A-

The Necks, Body (Northern Spy) The staggered digital and physical release dates led me to misplace the 20th album from Australia’s masters of repetition, but its sole 57-minute track warrants a slightly belated mention. In how their music reliably delivers gradual intensifications of a tableau that’s present from the very beginning, prior group efforts could register a bit like Michael Snow’s masterful experimental film Wavelength. For Body however, the music breaks down into four easily discernible sections, and with one change as radical (in the context of The Necks’ oeuvre, of course) as the plot-twist in Hitchcock’s Psycho. Although, to reference Raymond Durgnat’s essay on that film, it’s in much better taste. That is, Body isn’t a practical joke (per Durgnat), but rather life-affirming stuff. CD-only. A

Jesika von Rabbit, Dessert Rock (Dionysus) At a glance, I sized this up as some gal-fronted ’60s-pop retro trashiness, but jeepers, was that off-base. Jesika von Rabbit (of the Joshua Tree, CA-based Gram Rabbit, an outfit whose existence I’ve missed up to now) can be concisely described as an electro-pop diva, a mode of expression bluntly falling outside my general bag. What saves this album, her second as a solo entity, is that it’s securely a “freak-flag flying at full mast” thing. And as it unfolds, not a trace of irony emerges. It also offers depth and surprising twists (for one example, I really didn’t expect Terry Riley to enter my mind) amid the general (and likable) chutzpah, with the whole culminating in a Boy George-endorsed cover of “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?” that’s at once folky, torchy, and psychedelic. B

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