Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores for
July 2021, Part Three

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Sarah Wilson, Kaleidoscope (Brass Tonic) The music of composer, trumpeter, and singer Sarah Wilson is new to me, as I was drawn to check out this CD, her third, due to the participation of pianist Myra Melford. I’m thankful that Wilson keeps good company, for Kaleidoscope is a total gem that resists tidy encapsulation. First off, there’s the distinctive instrumental makeup of Wilson’s horn, Charles Burnham’s violin, John Schott’s guitar, Melford’s piano, Jerome Harris’ bass, and Matt Wilson’s drums, and ensemble play that’s highly skilled yet warm and playful. Second, is the record’s reality as a tribute to numerous mentors, including Melford. This doesn’t portend a relaxed atmosphere, but that’s just what unwinds across 11 Wilson compositions and a cover of M. Ward’s “Lullaby + Exile.” Third, is that Wilson fortifies a jazz foundation with pastoral elements, a calypso twist, and graceful pop turns, with the piano-based vocal beauty “Young Woman” a standout. That Wilson’s musical journey eludes norms echoes the music’s transcendence of boundaries and strengthens its unforced positivity. A

A Place To Bury Strangers, “Hologram” EP (Dedstrange) Formed in 2002 and based in Brooklyn, A Place to Bury Strangers has been shaped by numerous hands, but with vocalist and guitarist Oliver Ackermann a constant since 2003. With this 5-song EP, he inaugurates a fresh lineup with John Fedowitz on bass and Sandra Fedowitz on drums, and their handiwork is raucous and shoegazey, as befits the band’s reputation. To expand a bit, APTBS (as is the common abbreviation) have been described as “the loudest band in New York,” and listening to their stuff, it’s never been difficult to comprehend this claim. The records jut sound loud as fuck, even when played at reasonable volume. The distortion is also thicker than what’s heard on many other shoegaze affiliated albums (Ackermann is noted for designing guitar pedals through his company Death by Audio), which is a big point in their favor, as is songwriting that continues to remind me of The Jesus and Mary Chain. But what’s maybe most impressive is how inspired this new lineup sounds so deep into the band’s existence. A total keeper. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Roy Hargrove and Mulgrew Miller, In Harmony (Resonance) Trumpeter-flugelhornist Hargrove and pianist Miller are primarily associated with post-bop, and particularly with the style’s reemergence in the 1980s, this return growing into a movement that was soon tagged as neo-traditionalist jazz. And I’ll confess that the neo-trad scene has never really been my forte, partly due to my love of free jazz and associated subgenres. Post-bop has additionally been a major part of my jazz diet, but I’ve tended to gravitate toward the originators and the vastness of their output, of which dozens of albums remain that I’ve yet to hear. But there’s really no denying the richness of these live recordings from 2006-’07, as they feature just Hargrove and Miller, the duo configuration magnifying their interactive skills and also their taste, as they deliver a dozen interpretations (there is only one original, Hargrove’s “Blues for Mr. Hill,” a highlight) on 2LP for RSD and on 2CD, with the whole documenting a shared passion for their chosen artform. Up to Resonance’s usual standard? You bet. A

Joseph Spence, Encore: Unheard Recordings of Bahamian Guitar and Singing (Smithsonian Folkways) The music of the great Bahamian guitarist and vocalist Joseph Spence is brilliant, but not exactly plentiful; beginning in 1958, his sessions and live performances were issued by Folkways, Elektra, Arhoolie, and Rounder, totaling six LPs (excluding compilations). Highly influential yet impossible to duplicate, any new recordings by Spence are cause for celebration, so get ready to whoop and holler as this set (CD out July 16 with the vinyl scheduled for October) offers material captured impeccably in New York and Nassau in the Bahamas by engineer and producer Peter Siegel (who is also responsible for the contents of Smithsonian Folkways’ recent release Doc Watson and Gaither Carlton). While the songs aren’t as flowing and infectious as the stuff he cut in ’58 for Folkways, this is still prime Spence, offering distinct versions of well-known tunes (notably “Bimini Gal”), two new songs and vocals from the Pindar Family (including Spence’s sister Edith). Altogether, one of 2021’s sweetest surprises. A

Del Casher, Italian Stallion Soundtrack (ORG Music) Casher is well-known as a guitar innovator, particularly in regard to wah pedal technology. What he’s not particularly noted for, at least until now, is composing for adult films. This is largely because that’s not what Casher set out to do. Instead, he cut an album as a sort of knock-off “homage” to Bill Conti’s music for the film Rocky, which was then purchased and used as the updated soundtrack to the rereleased softcore porn flick The Party at Kitty and Stud’s, made in 1970 and starring the guy who played Rocky, Sylvester Stallone, in his film debut. According to the actor, the role paid $200, and he took it out of homeless desperation. The movie was retitled to capitalize on Stallone’s fresh fame, and no doubt Casher’s music was bought in the desire to solidify the connection. Having not watched the film (honest), I still chuckled a few times as I envisioned Stallone getting the job done to the album’s handful of anthemic Conti-like passages. But I must confess, this RSD set is more a pleasant curiosity than something I’d play with regularity. B-

Damiana, Vines (Hausu Mountain) Comprised of Natalie Chami (who has recorded as TALsounds) and Whitney Johnson (known for her work as Matchess), this is the debut of their collaboration in duo, available on LP, featuring music “written, performed and recorded” from 2018-2020. That Chami and Johnson have worked extensively with electronics might set up expectations that aren’t necessarily met, in part through the organic, and indeed psychedelic gush of their interplay. But Vines is a tidy affair, consisting of four tracks, with the longest hitting nine and a half minutes. What’s more prevalent is Johnson’s violin, particularly in “Melted Ranch,” which hits a level of interaction reminiscent of free jazz, but with helicopter sounds and a lack of rhythmic instrumentation. Vocals are a constant however, though I wouldn’t describe any of these selections as songlike. On the other hand, Vines isn’t fully abstract, either. The violin returns in closer “Under an Aster,” but early on, I was reminded of Mix Up-era Cabaret Voltaire. 100 on clear vinyl with a larger amount on standard black. A-

Booker Stardrum, CRATER (NNA Tapes) The is percussionist-composer Stardrum’s third full-length (the prior two also on NNA Tapes), though the resident of Los Angeles and frequent New York visitor has also played in Cloud Becomes Your Hand and People Get Ready, two outfits I’ve not heard.  Stardrum’s openness to collaboration ranges from encounters with Lee Ranaldo, Lisel, and Weyes Blood and extends even further into CRATER, which welcomes, amongst others, Ben Babbitt and Angela Morris, and returning from Stardrum’s last LP, trumpeter Jaimie Branch and Deerhoof’s John Dieterich, who also helped produce and edit, as well as mix and engineer. Citing electronic music and free jazz as dual templates, the contents don’t sound much like the latter as Stardrum’s approach to electronics avoids the pull of rigid categories. Strangeness is palpable across the album, but thankfully, it never seems like Stardrum is forcing the issue. He’s just letting it roll. This and 2018’s Temporary etc. are available on vinyl (the cassette of 2015’s Dance And is sold out). A-

D.A. Stern, “People Named Ben” EP (If This Then Records) Back in 2018, D.A. Stern, aka David Stern, released an album on Slumberland, Aloha Hola, but I haven’t heard it, which is unusual, as I do attempt to keep abreast of that fine label’s offerings. Before that album, Stern was in a band called the Sanctuaries, but I haven’t heard them, either. But I’m curious to check out both, as Stern opens this 4-song EP with the art-quirk lounge pop (complete with flute, sax, and vibraphone) of the title track, expands those parameters (with a subtle increase in seriousness) in “Jacket on My Birthday,” and then delivers an instrumental of decidedly ’60s-ish comportment, retaining the lounge aura and giving it a dose of R&R flavor. Saving the best for last, “I Look at Every Face (Cindy)” is infused with Beach Boys harmonies and songwriting to match, hitting like something Brian might’ve knocked out in the lead-up to Pet Sounds, or even better in the mid-’70s, as this set is as breezy as it is eccentric. The limited edition cassette is already sold out, which is kind of a drag, as this is a real grower. B+

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