Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores for
May 2020, Part Seven

Part seven of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for May, 2020. Part one is here, part two is here, part three is here, and part four is here, and part five is here, and part six here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: TALsounds, Acquiesce (NNA Tapes) Chicago’s Natalie Chami is a member of the trio Good Willsmith and is half of Damiana and l’éternèbre, but her solo music, which can be encapsulated descriptively as experimental electronics with vocals, is released as TALsounds. The earliest recording listed in the TALsounds Discogs entry is Sky Face, which came out on cassette in 2013 (it’s still available digitally via TALsounds’ Bandcamp). A deeper inspection of her output shows that magnetic tape has been the preferred physical format for nearly all of Chami’s solo stuff, though there was a split 7-inch with Iron Galaxy released in 2013 in an edition of 100 copies and then Love Sick on LP and CD in 2017 through Ba Da Bing! Acquiesce is also available on wax (standard black or 100 copies in white) and is a truly solo affair, with Chami responsible for all the playing and recording, an improvisational process finding the results “later trimmed down and reformatted into songs.”

Cooper Crain of Bitchin’ Bajas is credited as producer, but as Acquiesce is her fifth album, the process of trimming down outlined above is pretty clearly Chami’s own, a conclusion drawn from the striking confidence of the music here as it unfolds rather than seeking out specifics of/ in her earlier stuff. Equally impressive is how her vocalizing, which is often wordless and described by Chami as “leaning into vowels instead of phrases,” is enhanced by the cascading soundscapes, which indeed have songlike structure but also possess drifting qualities unsurprising in experimental (and improvised) electronics. By extension, her history of opening for artists as diverse as Tortoise, Mary Lattimore, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, and Merzbow is easy to understand. One can also easily absorb Chami’s statement that for her, it’s the playing rather than the recording that brings therapeutic value. On that note, we should consider ourselves lucky she’s produced such a large body of work, with Acquiesce the latest example. A-

Ami Dang, “Meditations Mixtape Vol. 1” (Leaving) Dang is a Baltimore-based South Asian-American ambient artist, singer and player of electronics, plus most distinctively, a mean sitarist. This was all in evidence on Parted Plains from last year, also on Leaving and still available on LP, though “Meditations Mixtape Vol. 1,” which, appropriately for a mixtape, is available on cassette in an edition of 300, provides a tidier dose of the same, but with urgency that one might not expect given Dang’s ambient sensibility. Specifically, she was inspired to create this music after her aunt and uncle became very ill with coronavirus. In her words, “Whether you or a loved one are ill, you’ve lost work, or are feeling general anxiety about the state of the world, these meditations are for you.” Her sitar is as strong as on Parted Plains, but it’s really her vocals that stand out on these four tracks and especially in “Simplicity Mind Tool” and closer “Tension, Tension Release.” An inspirational whole. Thank you, Ami Dang. A-

Matthewdavid’s Mindflight “Care Tracts” (Leaving) Matthew David McQueen mastered Ami Dang’s Meditations Mixtape, and he’s also the co-founder of Leaving Records, which has been one of the more consistently rewarding indie labels to have emerged over the last dozen or so years. A part of Leaving’s discography derives from McQueen’s work under the handle Matthewdavid (with LRH001 in fact, DISK Collection Vol.1, a CDR packaged in a hand-crafted 5¼-inch floppy disk), and a sub-portion as Mindflight, which on the new “Care Tracts” cassette EP (300 copies) strives for a plateau of elevated consciousness across three selections of 10 minutes each: “Tract of Animalia,” “Tract of Gentle Healing,” and “Tract of Bell & Flute Magic.” You might be thinking, “New Age?” You can bet your sweet keister this is New Age, bub. But in wholly embracing the style it avoids the clichés of the genre (especially in the final tract) and hopefully, any negative connotations you might still hold regarding the form. Just let go and float, ok? A-

Chouk Bwa & The Ångströmers, Vodou Alé (Bongo Joe) Chouk Bwa are a Haitian six-piece band said to specialize in Afro-Caribbean voodoo polyrhythms, with the Ångströmers a Belgian production duo who instill this studio meeting with dub electronic textures. I’ll confess to being unfamiliar with either side of this collaboration, which, with the exception of one track recorded at Institut Français de Port au Prince Haiti in April 2017, took place in November of the following year at Les Ateliers Claus Brussels. Furthermore, I’m far from an expert on Afro-Caribbean Vodou drumming, but the thunderous gallop heard in “Odjay – Nati Kongo” undoubtedly represents the essence of the root stuff, and there’s a whole lot of it across this LP. I will say, and maybe it’s just that I’ve been soaking up a lot of Lee Perry/ Scientist/ On-U Sound/ Sly & Robbie stuff lately, but I was hoping for a more deeply bent dub approach, though the lack doesn’t really detract that much from the whole, which is powerful in its concision. B+

The Dirty Clergy, In Waves (Cornelius Chapel) Alabama’s The Dirty Clergy, currently a trio featuring vocalist-guitarist Brian Manasco, bassist Ky Carter, and drummer Cody Moorehead, has been extant for a decade, with this their third album (coming out on CD and digital), cut in Birmingham with producer Les Nuby after losing a vocalist prior to recording. Rather than find a replacement, Manasco stepped into that role and does a solid job as the songs land largely in what I’ll call indie-garage-shoegaze territory. The pace rarely gets too quick, though there are a few spots, like “Young Lovers,” where things get anthemic and rise in volume and intensity to a rousing finale (almost “rave-up” for this sorta thing). As the record breaks 53 minutes (maybe a tad long), there are numerous high points, including opener “Trials,” the catchy and synth-tinged “Homesick,” the chunkier “West Coast,” and the rhythmically hard-hitting vocal duet “Parade.” A worthy set, executed well, but falling a bit short of top tier. B+

Paul Flaherty, Randall Colbourne, James Chumley Hunt, Mike Roberson, Borrowed From Children (577) Oh man. For fans of unadulterated free jazz, saxophonist Paul Flaherty is a legendary figure, though some folks who know him might not know of his long relationship with drummer Randall Colbourne. The folks I’m speaking of are those who might’ve absorbed Flaherty’s post-Ayler-late Coltrane-Pharaoh Sanders- Brötzmann-Evan Parker industrial strength hard blowing in tandem with another drummer, namely Chris Corsano, and I’ll add that if you experienced Flaherty and Corsano playing together, as I did on January 20, 2005 at the Noise Against Fascism event held at the Black Cat nightclub in Washington, DC (essentially an extended evening of racket as diss in response to the beginning of George W. Bush’s second term), you’re unlikely to ever forget it. I certainly won’t, though I’ll further mention I was clued-in before then, thanks to coverage in the underground press, to Flaherty’s work with Colbourne.

Flaherty and Colbourne’s recordings together, sometimes as a duo, but more commonly in trio and quartet situations reach back to the 1980s, initially released by Cadence Jazz and Tulpa Productions, but later a whole bunch on Zaabway Music, which is where they first recorded with Daniel Carter, co-founder of 577. As Flaherty’s output sorta exploded in connection with the noise-improv underground, Colbourne’s work on records wasn’t as common, though there were still some major efforts, like the duos with Flaherty, Bridge Out! (2008, Family Vineyard) and Ironic Havoc (2014, Relative Pitch) and a quartet with Flaherty, saxophonist-flautist-suona player Dan Lao and bassist Damon Smith, Live At Willimantic Records (2019, Family Vineyard).

At just shy of 61 minutes (hence, CD only), Borrowed From Children is a deluxe serving of free form improv, with Flaherty and Colbourne joined by James Chumley Hunt on trumpet and conch shell and Mike Roberson on guitar, both of whom I’m hearing for the first time. Hunt handles the trumpet with a wide range of feeling, recalling Don Cherry and Alan Shorter and hell, even Freddie Hubbard (who, you may recall, played with Ornette on Free Jazz) more than say, Don Ayler via extended tone rips. His playing gets in splendid abstract synch with Flaherty and Colbourne (whose style in reminiscent of Rashied Ali, Milford Graves, Beaver Harris and at times even Sunny Murray), but the wild card here is Roberson, who in his less-harried clean toned moments reminded me a bit of Scott Fields but in the wilder passages brought to my mind the playing of Rudolph Grey. In short, if you cherish your Blue Humans records, you’re gonna love this, too. CD is an edition of 100 copies, so don’t fucking sleep. A

L’éclair, Noshtta (Calico Discos / Bongo Joe) Geneva, Switzerland’s L’éclair are nothing if not busy. Since 2017, they’ve released three LPs, Cruise Control, Polymood, and then Sauropoda, with the most recent reviewed in this column last year, as it came to me described as something of a departure, being cut live in studio with few overdubs. It served as my intro to their thing, which has been tersely called prog-funk, but to my ear also contained elements of Afro-disco, Krautrock (both motorik and kosmische) and electronic dance musics; their sound on this 4-song 10-inch, released in the States via Calico Discos, the Alla-Lahs label, makes no major adjustments to what I heard before, though there are a few flashes of almost Library-like keyboard ambience; see the later portion of opener “Cebando.” That’s alright. The next cut “Atlantis” extends this, but with a more retrofuturist vibe. Even better. After that, “Dallas” ups the funk and dishes beaucoup guitar. Do you see where I’m going with this? A-

Love-Songs, Nicht Nicht (Bureau B) Based in Hamburg, Love-Songs appear (based on the promo photograph, anyway) to be a trio, with this their debut album after a handful of EPs from 2012 and the mini-album “Inselbegabung” landing in 2018. Theirs is an expansive but focused sound that’s been tagged as “organic electronica,” with side two’s first track “Tisch mit drei Weinen” perhaps fitting this description best on the album, with the vocals in German providing the icing for its late-night clubby cake. However, the Chinese cymbals and the kosmische-like, vaguely Terry Riley-ish keyboards-synth at the beginning of Nicht Nicht opener “Proxy I” set this multifaceted record in a direction that’s at times (dare I say it) almost cinematic; tension is indeed a recurring facet across the LP.

Bureau B mentions the contempo club appeal of “Selbstauflöser Teil II,” but even with German vocals in the mix here as well, it strikes me as more of a tribal experience, though this distinction is perhaps splitting hairs. But “Das Labyrinth,” the cut immediately following, unequivocally cultivates the atmosphere of a chilly dance lair, and to fine effect. It’s really with the title track, which closes side one, and “Proxy II,” which follows “Tisch mit drei Weinen” on side two, that the tension cited above is most pronounced. Unsurprisingly, the Chinese cymbal returns in “Proxy II,” but it’s the crisp repetition of the hi-hat at the start of the cut that really pulls my chain. “Proxy II” also stretches out very nicely to over eight minutes, as does finale “OG,” which has some appealing horns as a capper. A superb first full-length offering a sound that seems to have evolved methodically, without any rush or desperation. A-

Dave Miller, S/T (Tompkins Square) It appears that this 8-song set from Chicago-based by way of Brooklyn guitarist Miller is digital-only, maybe just temporarily but it’s also possible that no physical release is planned, which would be a shame, for it’s a strong collection of tuneful, rock-inclined jazz-infused instrumentals. Given the current world health situation and also Tompkins Square’s long history of releasing splendidly designed and wonderful sounding LPs and CDs (often in box set form), we’ll make a digital-only exception here (as we have in a few other recent cases). Also, Miller’s new album (not his first, with Old Door Phantoms [2016, Eyes & Ears] still available on CD) comes with a recommendation from fellow guitarist Mary Halvorson, praise which sharply focused my attention on the release at hand.

Well, the contents don’t flow forth from the same nourishing spring of avant jazziness from whence Halvorson’s gushes, but it still no surprise that Miller played on the exceptional Snaketime: The Music of Moondog, from Dustin Laurenzi’s Snaketime. Now, there is an immediately tangible thread of guitar jazziness in this set’s opener “Hand Dipped,” but it’s combined with enough psych-fuzz action to suggest an unearthed private press from around 1978 or so. The jazz element persists in “Fellow Man” as the private press aura largely subsides. In its place is a sound falling between Neil Young and Marc Ribot, to borrow the two poles of influence suggested in Tompkins Square’s promo text. Miller’s playing, without sounding like a copyist, leans toward the Ribot in that comparison, which means these sometimes Americana rock-inclined songs, featuring a full band (the Neil side of things) don’t suffer from the lack of vocals. The playing is deft; fans of fellow Chicagoan Joel Paterson might want to investigate. A-

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