Graded on a Curve: New in Stores for November 2020, Part Three

Part three of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for November 2020. Part one is here and part two is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Lisa/Liza, Shelter of a Song (Orindal) Lisa/Liza is singer-songwriter Liza (pronounced Lisa) Victoria, who resides in Portland, the one in Maine. This is her third LP for Orindal (she’s also issued a pair of cassette EPs for the label), and after welcoming additional instrumentalists on her prior effort Momentary Glance, she returns to solo mode here with eight tracks recorded live in a kitchen with nary an overdub. Victoria’s sound lands securely in the late night folk zone, with singing that’s pretty but sturdy, delivery that’s emotional but in control, and fingerpicking that is often gentle but with an invigorating tension and flashes of sharpness. Additionally, Victoria has the ability to tackle topics (the suicide of a friend on Momentary Glance, her own chronic illness on this album) that’s stimulating in its seriousness rather than burdensome. Still, it’s difficult to deny this record is a heavy experience, but that’s ultimately to Victoria’s credit. Shelter of a Song is unlikely to get many back-to-back spins, but when it is played it will surely leave an impression. A-

Enrique Rodríguez and the Negra Chiway Band, Fase Liminal (Soul Jazz Records) One of the dangers with spiritually focused music is an overflowing bliss that deflates into insubstantiality. Fase Liminal, which can be succinctly tagged as contemporary spiritual jazz from Chile, doesn’t have this problem, largely because the range of influence is fairly wide, so that an appealing balance is struck between free jazz fire and modal fusion textures, with electric keyboard prevalent. And so, not only does Rodriguez and band avoid getting too airy, but they also avoid faltering into hackneyed vamping or technique-flaunting noodles. Hooray! And while there’s an abundance of percussion across the record, rhythm doesn’t dominate the proceedings, as the horn playing is rich and occasionally raucous. This is true in particular during the closing alt take of “Dónde ?,” which attains levels of collective intensity recalling Sanders’ Karma but with piano that brought to mind LaMont Johnson’s playing on Jackie McLean’s “Hipnosis.” Everything clicks, even the flute and vocals. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: V/A, CUBA: Music and Revolution: Culture Clash in Havana: Experiments in Latin Music 1975-85 Vol.1 (Soul Jazz) This set, issued in 3LP and 2CD editions, arrives in conjunction with the hardcover book CUBA: Music and Revolution: Original Album Cover Art of Cuban Music: Record Sleeve Designs of Revolutionary Cuba 1959-90. Both the book and this collection are the handiwork of Gilles Peterson and Stuart Baker, their third such collaboration (the prior two delved into revolutionary jazz and bossa nova), and as these selections play it’s abundantly clear, even without access to the book (which isn’t available in the US until December 11), that the compilers are at the very top of their game. Now, you might’ve noticed that the book tackles a much longer timeframe than the compilation. That’s okay. The compressed focus of Experiments in Latin Music allows for a deep immersion into a transitional period rather than surface-skimming a longer span of years. Furthermore, it’s stated that most everything here was previously unheard outside Cuba, making this a feast for the curious (out 11/27). A

MIYUMI Project, Best of the MIYUMI Project (FPE) Now 20 years strong, the MIYUMI Project is a Chicago-based Asian-American / African-American collaboration founded and led by bassist Tatsu Aoki. Drawn from the group’s sizeable discography, these nine selections span four sides of vinyl (CD is also available) and from all research appears to by MIYUMI Project’s debut on wax. The sound is a synthesis of the Japanese taiko drumming tradition and avant-jazz improvisational firepower, with a sturdy connection to the Windy City’s AACM, including members Ed Wilkerson and Mwata Bowden on reeds and Dushun Mosley on drums. Aoki, who was part of Japan’s experimental scene before moving to the USA in 1977 (Chicago in ’79), brings a steadying maturity (and robust bass) to this fusion, though that’s not to infer that things don’t get wild. They do. Things are also consistently rhythmic, rising to a powerhouse level in the nearly 16-minute “Episode One.” Along with spirited expansive blowing, there is beaucoup string scrape, which only increases the fortitude of the MIYUMI Project’s bedrock. Compilations rarely get any better than this one, which culminates with an unreleased live track.

Dave Alvin, From an Old Guitar: Rare and Unreleased Recordings (Yep Roc) From his days as guitarist and songwriter with The Blasters, Dave Alvin has been one of roots music’s giants. And roots music remains the best description of his approach, as he excels at rockabilly, R&B, blues, folk, country, and more, rather than delivering variations on one particular style. It was this sheer reach that helped place The Blasters head and shoulders above their neo-‘billy contemporaries, along with Alvin’s strengths as a songwriter. So it’s worth noting that From an Old Guitar is dominated by interpretations of others’ material; of the 16 selections spanning four sides of vinyl, only three are originals. This is partly due to a percentage of the tracks having been cut for tribute albums, and as the tunes unwind, drawn from sources as varied as Chris Smither, Willie Dixon, Doug Sahm, Bob Dylan, Marty Robbins, Lillian Hardin Armstrong, Earl Hooker, Bill Morrissey, Micky Newbury, Peter Case, and Bo Carter, they offer a skillfully rendered tour through one man’s inspirations, with those originals holding up quite nicely. A-

Jack Oblivian and the Sheiks, Lone Ranger of Love (Black & Wyatt) This record was originally released in 2016 in an edition of 1000, but I didn’t score a copy. As a sage individual once observed…them’s the breaks. But with Black & Wyatt’s fresh reissue, the tide is turning for the positive, specifically because Lone Ranger of Love is a trim beast that establishes Jack Oblivian’s garage punk skills as undiminished at the time of release, while simultaneously flashing songwriting prowess that underscores a desire to expand beyond Pagans-style snot, snarl and roar. There is a swell Lou Reed-ish move in “Fast Friends,” which naturally couples well with a general tendency toward late ’70s NYC street punk swagger, though on the other side of the spectrum, we have the almost power-poppy “Stick to Me,” the swampy (and loopy) funk-punk of “Lone Ranger” and the back-to-back parts of “La Charra,” which bring to my mind Beefheart, The Fall, and The Champs’ “Tequila.” But the boldest move of all is the sleazy psych-rock of “Ride Like the Wind.” Then, it’s all over except for a little cowpoke action. Get along! A-

Jordan Reyes, Sand Like Stardust (American Dreams) Reyes is a member of ONO, the Chicago-based gospel-noise outfit, but he’s flying truly solo here as multi-instrumentalist and vocalist for a set that’s tagged as ambient country. Now, my first thought when reading that description was of lap steel lines moving slow as molasses fresh out of the Frigidaire, but that’s not was Reyes is up to here. His mode of operation is far more subtle and varied as the instruments utilized include keyboard, trombone, electronic drum, and guitars acoustic, electric, and yes indeedy, even lap steel. As said, there are vocals, in fact vocals are the only thing heard in opener “The Pre-Dawn Light,” but across this LP, Reyes’ voice emerges largely intermittently, surfacing on successive cuts only at the end, with finale “Centaurus” the only selection with lyrics. Sand Like Stardust is textural (but with patterns), experimental, conceptual, and intriguing; in “An Unkindness,” what I assume are menacingly serrated trombone lines conjure thoughts of diegetic sound from a film by Robert Eggers that takes place on a haunted steam ship. Later, in “Rebirth at Dusk,” the ‘bone reminded me of Dickie Landry. A-

Ryuichi Sakamoto, Hidari Ude No Yume (WEWANTSOUNDS) I’ll confess that my appreciation for the work of Ryuichi Sakamoto has increased as I’ve gotten older. The records I heard as a lad didn’t turn me off, but rather simply didn’t leave much of an impression. This could be chalked up to a lack of receptiveness to subtlety and texture on my part (as an unrefined youth), but it’s important to add that the Sakamoto I heard back then was not the stuff that’s impressed me most positively in recent years. Hidari Ude No Yume, Sakamoto’s third solo record, originally released in 1981, and titled Left Handed Dream upon initial release outside Japan, is described as a turn toward pop sensibilities, but it’s still a wonderfully strange listen, featuring input from his Yellow Magic Orchestra bandmates, Adrian Belew, and even Robin Scott (he of M and “Pop Muzik” fame). It’s important to note that WEWANTSOUNDS are reissuing the original mix and track sequence, making it available for the first time outside Japan, and are offering it as a 2LP with an instrumental mix of the album that’s very much appreciated. A-

WL, ADHD (Beacon Sound) ADHD is the third album from Portland, OR’s WL (pronounced well), their first for Beacon Sound, and my introduction to the trio of Adam Breeden (drums, lap steel, keyboards, guitar), Michael Yun (guitar, keyboard, synths), and Misty Mary (vocals, bass, synths). The sound is dream pop, but with the instrumentation as a tipoff, significantly tech-slathered; a fair portion of the record’s eight songs reminds me of Broadcast and Mazzy Star cutting a soundtrack to a film by Nicolas Winding Refn, which is cool enough, but there are a few spots that I dig even more. I’m particularly fond of the title track as Mary’s vocals tickled my ear as being similar to Bridget Cross’ on Unrest’s Perfect Teeth. That track arrives late, and gives way to some swell slo-mo gush for the finale, but there’s also the raw guitar resonance of “Violet Shadow” and Jonathan Sielaff of Golden Retriever mingling his bass clarinet with the synth ripples and cascades in “Mountain Home.” Nothing here happens fast, but there is enough pop savvy to keep this from becoming a sonic tarpit. B+

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