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

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Nathan Bowles, Plainly Mistaken (Paradise of Bachelors) Oh, yes. The latest album from banjoist Bowles (of Pelt, Black Twig Pickers, and Steve Gunn) is the first to journey into the full-band zone, and it’s an absolute delight. Mostly instrumental (there are two tracks with vocals) and peppered with interpretive selections (from Ernie Carpenter to Cousin Emmy and Her Kinfolk to an opening stab at Julie Tippetts’ “Now If You Remember”), the music extends Bowles’ immersion into Appalachian-Piedmont traditions, moving so far beyond mere Americana that it deserves a category of its own. Casey Toll’s bowed double bass helps bring to mind NC’s Shark Quest (a cool thing), but “Ruby in Kind I” is like a hybrid of Roscoe Holcomb, Up On the Sun-era Meat Puppets and Henry Flynt. Hot effing damn. A

Puce Mary, The Drought (PAN) Puce Mary is Frederikke Hoffmeier, and since 2013 the Copenhagen-based sound artist has released five LPs combining power electronics, industrial noise, and experimentation. For number six, new label PAN says she’s dialed back the extremity a bit; dipping into her prior stuff backs up the claim, though on the general musical scale, The Drought is still pretty uncompromising, with opener “Dissolve” a fitting soundtrack for a journey into the bowels of hell. But to her credit, that’s not really the atmosphere she’s striving for, with cited inspirations including Baudelaire, Jean Genet, and Antonioni’s masterpiece Red Desert. Power electronics-related stuff once regularly marinated in ideologically sketchy subject matter, so the lack of such here is refreshing. A

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Alvin Curran, Canti E Vedute Del Giardino Magnetico (Superior Viaduct) Curran was one of the founders of Musica Elettronica Viva, who along with AMM served as a cornerstone of free improvisation. If the term free improv brings you automatic associations with jazz, MEV was not that, just as this mid-’70s LP is not MEV. Using field recordings (ocean waves, wind, high-tension wires, frogs, birds, and bees), synth, chimes, and on the first of two side-long tracks, the human voice, Curran integrates aspects of Minimalism without ever becoming an example of the then-nascent style. In part due to the vocals, side one holds some similarities to Modernist classical, while the flip drifts like prime kosmische. All-in-all, a fully formed and deftly conceived avant experience. A

Phill Niblock, Niblock For Celli / Celli Plays Niblock (Superior Viaduct) Niblock is an avant-gardist of distinction, but as Superior Viaduct mentions in their press for this reissue, he didn’t get around to recording until the early ’80s (SV already has his stellar debut Nothin To Look At Just A Record in their catalog). The delay wasn’t out of frustration or late-blooming, as Niblock had been composing (and filming The Magic Sun, a killer experimental short documenting a performance by the Sun Ra Arkestra). He was certainly also accumulating experience, which really shines through in his first two LPs (originally for India Navigation). This is the second, with Joseph Celli on oboe and English horn, and it’s an utter feast for drone lovers. If that’s you, then dive right in. Also, Niblock advises you to crank this baby up. A+

Anamon, Purple, Green, and Yellow (Self-released) While this Rochester, NY-based assemblage kicks it as a band, Anamon is also the “writing project” of Ana Emily Monaco, and her efforts impact this 10-song album (their second) through focused range. Alongside bassist Benton Sillick, drummer Aaron Mika and guitarist-producer Sam Snyder (and a few additional contributing hands), Monaco sings lead and plays guitar (Anamon began with her in solo acoustic mode). The sound on offer is decidedly indie in comportment, but as said, it avoids falling into one bag quite nicely; peppy opener “No Friends” should please folks into the more raucous side of indie pop, other moments bring to mind early Best Coast, and a few numbers radiate a lo-fi country vibe. There’s even some sweet honking and wailing sax. B+

Animanz & Juanita Euka, Exotic Other (Tru Thoughts) Active since 2013, this is the first LP for London’s Animanz (featuring guitarist Max Rodriguez, bassist Joshua Brandler, keyboardist Marc Goymour, and drummer Andrea Gugel, plus horns) as they team up with Congolese vocalist Euka. The contents fall consistently into the groove pocket but are unpredictable, which is a major boon for what the band calls party tunes. Right away, a punkish edge enhances the Afro-Latin-tinged funk, with the sharpness never dissipating even as the funkiness rises. Euka handles the mic with aplomb, though the covers of UK rappers Dizzee Rascal and Kano are instrumentals. There is also a nice version of Thundercat’s “Them Changes” and a fabulous transformation of Crystal Waters’ “Gypsy Woman.” La da dee, la da da. A-

John Bender, Pop Surgery (Superior Viaduct) Between ’80-’83 Cincinnati’s John Bender released three albums (and a few cassettes) of lo-fi electronics, loose and at-times wild yet disciplined, on his own Record Sluts label. While the immediate reaction was minimal, his work had the stuff of enduring cult stature; back in 2012 Vinyl on Demand reissued the whole shittin’ caboodle in a 7LP box, but only pressed 99 copies. That means I don’t have one, and I’m pretty confident you don’t either. However, Superior Viaduct has remedied this lack by reissuing Bender’s first two LPs, and now here comes the third. Its title is indicative of the method, but the approach is more intriguing than disruptive. Occasionally described as synth pop, avant-garde-informed minimal wave better expresses the gist. A-

Death Valley Girls, Darkness Rains (Suicide Squeeze) If you think that you require no more Fun House-inspired mauling in your life…well, I understand the sentiment, but you might be wrong. I say this as a newcomer and convert to this Los Angelino outfit, led by vocalist-multi-instrumentalist Bonnie Bloomgarden and guitarist Larry Schemel, rounded out here on their third LP by bassist Alana Amram and drummer Laura Harris (plus a troop of guests). ‘tis nothing new under the sun, sure, but Bloomgarden’s full-throated belting brings an immediate, welcome wrinkle, and the band roars, thumps, and burns out of sheer inspiration rather than imitation or even homage. And touches of cited influences Sabbath, ZZ Top, and early ’70s Stones assist in making this one a true keeper. A-

King Brothers, Wasteland (Hound Gawd!) I’ve been into Hound Gawd!’s thing for a while now, but with this (and the Morlocks below) they’ve heightened the game. This label debut is the King Brothers’ 20th anniversary LP and first since 2010; in the most succinct way possible, they can be described as Japan’s Blues Explosion, but that’s also a bit reductive. The Brothers (who I don’t think are blood siblings) like to bear down on the strings, pound the skins, shout it out (in their native language, a definite plus), and blow some bluesy mouth harp, and all hard, but beyond a very Spencer-esque opener, the proceedings sidestep mimicry. The label says the Germs backing Howlin’ Wolf, and that’s cool, but I’d swap the former for Kill From the Heart-era Dicks or maybe even Aussies The Victims. Large, and very good. A-

René Lussier Quintette, S/T (Circum-Disc) The versatile, avant-friendly Canadian guitarist Lussier has an extensive background, with a long string of releases both solo and as a leader. This is the latest. For those who dig the mingling of composition and improv yet are to some degree fatigued with standard instrumentation of the endeavor (you know; sax, keys, bass, drums), this offers Lussier on his main axe and daxophone, Julie Houle on tuba and euphonium, Luzio Altobelli on accordion, and Robbie Kuster and Marton Maderspach on drums (in the left and right stereo channels, respectively). But don’t go thinking of this as instrumentally esoteric for the sake of it, as the music flows naturally and invitingly, leaning as much into avant-rock (with shades of RIO) as free jazz. A delightful release, on CD only. 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!

The Morlocks, Bring on the Mesmeric Condition (Hound Gawd!) Rearing to life in San Diego in 1983, garage slammers The Morlocks continue to be led by vocalist Leighton Koizumi, and on the band’s first LP since 2010, this edition of the lineup (featuring alumni of the Fuzztones, Link Wray, Sonny Vincent, the Humpers, and Koizumi’s other outfit Gravedigger V) avoids by-the-numbers/ through-the-motions avenues on a hotly played set boldly produced (in Germany) by Jim Diamond. Like the Death Valley Girls and labelmates the King Brothers above, this is far from a jaw-dropper, and yet; The Morlocks’ first LP came out when I was a high school freshman. That Koizumi’s still rocking with quality means there’s no excuse when your favorite band starts stinking up the joint after releasing two albums in five years. A-

Nitzer Ebb, 1982-2010: The Box Set (Pylon) This collection’s limited color vinyl edition (available only at Pylon’s website) includes this UK outfit’s ’83 demo; the black wax box will not, though there are open slots in the package for it and ’09’s Industrial Complex, if purchased separately. Basic Pain Procedure (the demo) finds them under the sway of the Neue Deutsche Welle, ’87’s That Total Age established their enduring style (danceable electronic songs with Industrial shadings and punk aggro), ’89’s Belief refined it (but without much improvement), ’90’s Showtime expanded to avoid the formulaic (it was an improvement) ‘91’s Ebbhead honed those progressions, and ’95’s Big Hit integrated trad instruments (it’s better than its rep). All five Mute albums are 2LPs, expanded with remixes. B+/ B+/ A-/ A-/ B+

Obnox, Bang Messiah (Smog Veil) When I first encountered the name Obnox on upcoming release lists earlier in this decade, I immediately pegged them as some new screamo act and went on about my business. I did discover pretty quickly that my knee-jerk assessment was wrong (Obnox’s constant man Lamont “Bim” Thomas was in the terrific Bassholes with Gibson Bro Don Howland and also This Moment in Black History), but it wasn’t until they opened for fellow Clevelanders Pere Ubu in 2016 that I checked them out in earnest, and I quickly cottoned to the mix of garage punk, hip-hop, general funkiness, noise, and what I’ll call scuzz-fi. It’s a combo unlike any other on the contempo scene, and Thomas’ streak of quality continues here, with assistance from Steve Albini. “40th St. Black” is a highlight. A

The Stoned, L.E.S. Douze Vol. 1 (Nouveau Electric) In 2016, Lost Bayou Rambler fiddler-vocalist Louis Michot undertook a six-day twelve-performance residency at the John Zorn-curated NYC venue The Stone. One set offered a 45-minute dive into free improvisation from an assemblage including Michot, Pogue Spider Stacy on tin whistle, New Bayou Rambler cohort Ryan Brasseaux on t-fer (a Cajun triangle) and vocals, Jason Robira on drums, Jeff Tobias on sax, Jonny Campos on guitar, Brian Webre on bass, and even recordings of Tundaminous (i.e. episodes of the Thunder Cats cartoon overdubbed with Cajun voices). A gamble, but successful and hard to compare to much else, except for a few places suggesting a Pharoah Sanders-led group under the spell of the Louisiana swamp. Altogether, this is fucking nice. A-

Alexandra Stréliski, Inscape (Decret City) I’ve offered my quibble with a fair percentage of neoclassical stuff before; its gentle comportment too often connects like accompaniment for internet video uplift or soundtracks to TV commercials for allergy medication. Canadian pianist Stréliski’s work is undeniably pretty, and she’s worked in commercials (hell, she’s even been called an internet musician, though she’s also scored films for director Jean-Marc Vallée), but her second album (and my conscious introduction to her work) avoids faltering into the above scenarios, in large part through a range of emotion (and intensity) amid the pleasant atmospheres and also due to the sheer closeness of the recording. Neoclassical frequently has me closing my eyes, but Inscape makes me want to watch Stréliski play. A-

Unicorn, Laughing Up Your Sleeve (Omnivore) The most striking aspect of this cult (some would say forgotten) ’70s UK outfit isn’t that they didn’t become widely popular. It isn’t that David Gilmour produced their three albums. It isn’t even that the band played on Kate Bush’s pre-EMI demos. No, it was how they so seamlessly blended Brit folk rock with California country-rock. Although impeccably executed, my youthful perspective on Unicorn was that they were just too polished and refined (I find Gilmour’s comment that he would’ve liked to make their records “bigger” flabbergasting), but maybe a little less so upon mellowing with age. Similar to Omnivore’s recent America set, I dig the demo stuff more in a sunny summer Sunday morning kinda way, though I’m not bowled over. You might be. B

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