Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores for
March 2021, Part Two

Part two of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for March 2021. Part one is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: John Krausbauer and Kaori Suzuki, Night Angel of Dual Infinities (Beacon Sound) This is the last of Beacon Sound’s releases for Bandcamp Friday, which yes, means it was issued last week, but as I wasn’t made hip to its existence until that very day, here we are. This is a 100-copy edition, 35 of them paired with a Risograph-printed art booklet (six are remaining as of this writing) and the rest offered as a standalone 45rpm 140gm 12-inch tucked into hand-assembled matte jackets with hand-stamped labels. It is, succinctly, an art object of unusually high quality, with the accompanying sounds, a single 21-minute, 45-second piece divided in two, equally exquisite. Krausbauer of Oakland, CA and Suzuki, Tokyo-born but also an Oakland resident, specialize in the drone, or as Beacon Sound’s PR puts it, trance psychedelia; it’s a form for which I’ve developed an affinity over the years, and this piece is easily one of the finest examples of sustained reverberation that I’ve heard in quite some time. Devotees of La Monte should step up to the plate because this baby won’t be around much longer. A

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Theory of Ice (You’ve Changed) Leanne Betasamosake Simpson is a Mississauga Nishnaabeg writer, editor, musician, academic and activist, with her work focused on the Indigenous experience in Canada. Her books are many, including the fiction work Noopiming: The Cure for White Ladies, and with Theory of Ice, she is releasing her fourth album. It is the first I’ve heard, and it resonates as a major effort, poetic while wielding ideological and emotional clarity, the playing forceful yet possessing considerable beauty. On one hand, the LP’s centerpiece is its striking version of Willie Dunn’s “I Pity the Country” (which many have heard as the opening track on Light in the Attic’s 2014 compilation Native North America Vol 1), but on the other, Simpson’s own compositions stand up tall, especially the three following “I Pity the Country” in the sequence. I’m especially fond of penultimate track “The Wake” heading into “Head of the Lake,” the two songs recalling aspects of the ’90s indie sound in wholly positive ways while still being very much Simpson’s own thing. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: V/A, Rocksteady Got Soul (Soul Jazz) The musical style known as rocksteady dates to 1966, falling chronologically smackdab between ska and reggae in the Jamaican scheme of things. Many highly regarded names in the country’s music thrived playing rocksteady in the period the style was dominant, including Alton Ellis, The Heptones, Jackie Mittoo, The Gladiators, The Ethiopians, Errol Dunkley, and John Holt, all artists featured on this 18-track comp spanning ’66-’70 and culled from the deep vaults of Studio One, issued on double vinyl in a gatefold jacket and on CD and digital. But making Rocksteady Got Soul even sweeter is the sprinkling of high quality selections by lesser-known acts, with a few of those entries downright rare, this knowledge gleaned from the sharp sleeve notes by Rob Chapman. Amongst the highlights is “Run Rudie Run” by Lee (King) Perry & the Gaylads (Perry not yet known as Scratch), “The Tables Gonna Turn” by The Clarendonians, and a cover of Toots & the Maytals’ “Monkey Man” by the Freedom Singers and Larry Marshall. But the whole set is a delight. A

Sivuca, S/T (Real Gone) Starting in the late 1950s, Brazilian accordionist-guitarist-vocalist Sivuca recorded frequently, but his most prominent discs were made for Reprise, RCA, and Vanguard, the label that originally issued this set in 1973. It’s likely his highest profile LP, due in part to a version of Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine.” The mention of Vanguard and the cover photo might lead you to think this is a folky sorta situation, but even as Sivuca’s guitar does occasionally tap into the folk mode, his playing is more often fleet, and in “Tunnel,” appealingly fibrous. But it’s the blend of bossa nova and Latin jazz, eminently likeable and just as much of a time capsule, in no small part due to the group gal vocals, that sets the album apart. The singing lends it an airy quality that thankfully never drifts into the territory of kitsch. While there is nothing particularly strange going on, the record’s overall thrust is vibrant enough that fans of Tropicalia, and certainly Música popular brasileira, should dig it. Both color vinyl editions are listed by Real Gone as sold out, so if you spot a copy in store, don’t hesitate. A-

Olie Brice, Binker Golding, Henry Kaiser, N.O. Moore, Eddie Prévost, The Secret Handshake With Danger, Vol. 1 (577) Of the five musicians shaping this dynamo of a CD, I am hearing guitarist N.O. Moore and double bassist Olie Brice for the first time. Saxophonist Binker Golding has tore my wig off in connection with drummer Moses Boyd, but here the sticks are handled by Prévost, whose work in AMM and elsewhere is a cornerstone in the annals of free improvisation. I’ll add that the free improv exemplified by AMM rendered his role in this On the Corner-era Miles-inspired set a little surprising, at least to me. However, I wasn’t a bit stunned over Kaiser’s involvement in this Davis-oriented endeavor, as the guitarist was a main instigator in the Yo! Miles band project alongside trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith and others.

Those with knowledge of Kaiser’s activity in Yo! Miles (amongst other worthy projects, e.g. the splendid doozy that is A Love Supreme Electric from last year) should easily comprehend that Secret Handshake will offer no standard neo-fusion niceties. The stated inspiration of the still contentious On the Corner backs this up. The playing of everyone involved drives it all home. In “Door 1,” the longer of the two tracks (breaking 22 minutes), the band cooks a pot of ecstatic jazz to full boil, though the guitars do inspire thoughts of McLaughlin’s wilder side. That’s a mighty fine thing to consider. But late in the cut, it suddenly sounds like Chadbourne and Alan Licht are in the midst of an espresso-fueled tangle, and that’s even finer. Golding’s flow here reminds me a tad of Marion Brown, while Brice’s playing is meaty and Prévost is frequently thunderous. “Door 2” is shorter but more spacious as it blends sci-fi amp splatter with Euro improv and horn lines suggesting Frank Lowe. Altogether unfuckwithable. A

Allie Crow Buckley, Moonlit and Devious (Self-released) Singer-songwriter and instrumentalist Buckley resides in Los Angeles, though she’s gotten around a bit, from San Fran to Venice to New Zealand and then going back to Cali, first Mendocino and then Malibu, all before graduating high school. Three years were spent in New York before moving back to L.A. She self-released her debut in 2018, the digital EP “So Romantic,” with Moonlit and Devious her full-length follow-up. Buckley’s style can be encapsulated as pop-rock, contemplative and contemporary in thrust while utilizing the classic elements of guitar, keyboards, and bass, with an influx of reverbed low-end that counterbalances the decidedly polished nature of her sound. Nothing on this LP is a bold as her EP’s closing cover of Black Sabbath’s “Changes” (not as strong as Charles Bradley’s, but still worthwhile), but Moonlit and Devious does progress toward its achy finale with consistency and assurance, underscoring a level of experience that extends beyond her still slim discography, making an impact while she’s still poised as an artist to watch. B+

Cyclone Trio, Electric (Orbit577) & The Clear Revolution (577) Cyclone Trio is shaped up by saxophonist Massimo Magee and two drummers, Tony Irving and Tim Green. Their name, a tribute to saxophonist Glenn Spearman’s trio with drummer Paul Murphy and bassist William Parker, is also, as pointed out by Irving in his terrific reminiscence for the digital-only release Electric, representative of the high-energy nature of the free jazz they play. Irving’s notes delineate his background in the outfit Ascension, certainly a jazz inspired affair but one that grew out the early ’90s UK rock underground. But by the time of Electric’s recording, April 15, 2013 in Brisbane, Australia, he and his mates in Cyclone Trio were deep into the molten free jazz that flourished in the late ’60s-early ’70s USA (prior to things cooling down in the lofts) but distinct through the sheer amount of drumming that explodes forth across two long pieces.

Jumping forward to early last year, The Clear Revolution CD was recorded at Tigersonic Studios in London a day after the live set that’s documented on Cyclone Trio’s other digital-only Orbit577 release, Cataclysm…Live at Cafe Oto (previously reviewed, quite favorably, in this column). These 2020 recordings document a wealth of growth, with The Clear Revolution losing nothing through its origins in studio rather than on the bandstand. To the contrary, the vividness of the recording deepens the portraiture as Magee extends beyond the alto and sopranino saxes blown on Electric to include tenor and even a little bit of silver rattle. More percussion! And while his penchant for lyrical warmth has increased, Magee has not mellowed, as he’s still skronking up a, uh, storm. He’s also digging into sustained tones in a manner that’s not easily comparable to anybody else I’ve heard. And those drums just keep on rolling, expressive as well as boisterous. A-/ A

Sunburned Hand of the Man, Pick a Day to Die (Three Lobed) Consisting of tracks dating from 2007-’17 (some overdubs are listed as deriving from last year), one might quibble over Pick a Day to Die being a brand-spankin’ new Sunburned Hand of the Man album, but unless you’re a member of the band, these seven selections will almost certainly be new to your ears, and if you appreciated the free rock side of the New Weird American equation, those discerning canals won’t care to split a hair over the newness of this set. Spanning a decade, the contents do move around somewhat stylistically, with the dancefloor-inclined “Flex” reestablishing that Sunburned had exhibited a disinclination with being pigeonholed as merely a bent-assed psych-rock unit (Four Tet’s Kieran Hebden produced 2007’s Fire Escape and its 2010 follow-up, A, don’tcha know). Indeed, this outfit has never stood still for very long, so the range synchs-up nice with the strange. Yes Marty, this set gets effectively out there, particularly in the title cut and in finale “Prix Fixe,” which features some guest guitar from J. Mascis. A-

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