Graded on a Curve: New in Stores for August 2021, Part One

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Moritz von Oswald Trio, Dissent (Modern Recordings) Having hit the scene as a member of the noteworthy Neue Deutsche Welle outfit Palais Schaumburg, Moritz von Oswald is best known for his contributions to electronic music, and techno in particular. He is also an adept collaborator, with his musical partners including his Palais Schaumburg bandmate Thomas Fehlmann (as 2MB), Eddie Fowlkes (with Fehlmann as 3MB), Mark Ernestus (in Basic Channel and Rhythm & Sound), and in previous versions of the Moritz von Oswald Trio, Max Loderbauer, Vladislav Delay, and Tony Allen. This lineup of the trio features Laurel Halo on keyboards and Heinrich Köbberling on drums, with von Oswald handling string keyboards, drum programming and synthesizer. Consisting of ten chapters with a prologue and epilogue, Dissent blends aspects of techno and jazz (specifically, the heartier side of fusion), and late in the sequence dub and hand drumming, with the results bringing to mind post-rock, and for a few brief moments, even Jon Hassell. Deftly executed and always interesting, often superb. A-

Xordox, Omniverse (Editions Mego) Born in Melbourne, Australia and musically active since around 1980, JG Thirlwell has been long based in NYC, with a fair amount of his output, particularly early on, sneeringly attitudinal in a manner fitting that locale in its pre-gentrified state. A notable collaboration (with Lydia Lunch and Thurston Moore) was called Stinkfist. More prominent was his multi-album, varyingly titled Foetus project. I bring all this up because against the odds, Thirlwell has adapted pretty damn well as a musician to what I’ll call late middle age, all while retaining his edge. This isn’t a new development, as the guy has chalked up numerous credits as a composer (fans of The Venture Bros. and Archer know his work), but it’s still worth mentioning in relation to his second album as Xordox, wherein the cinematic synthesizer vistas do acquire undercurrents and even explosive flashes of menace, and with one exception, without vocals. That Thirlwell can bring fresh twists to the dystopian is worth celebrating. So is the life and work of Editions Mego’s Peter Rehberg, who passed on July 22. RIP. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Willie Colón & Rubén Blades, Siembra (Craft) If you’re attuned to the history of salsa, you know this 1978 LP. It was for a long stretch the biggest selling salsa album of all time. The album is also an artistic standout, which means that budding enthusiasts of the style who’ve been snatching up Craft Recording’s Fania Records reissues have another appointment with the cash register. Siembra has all the basses covered, and more. Blades, who’d been the vocalist in Ray Barretto’s band, really comes into his own on the second of his four collab albums with Colón, not only singing but also writing all but one of the record’s seven selections, with the Kurt Weill- Bertolt Brecht-inspired “Pedro Navaja” a particular standout. But Colón’s contribution as musical director, producer and trombonist is just as vital. From the sweet disco fake out at the beginning of the record’s opener “Plástico” to the string-loaded closing title track, this baby brings the heat. One needn’t be fluent in the language to grasp the ambitiousness, and the mastery, that’s on display throughout. A

Eye Q, Please the Nation (Now-Again Reserve) This is the August 2021 installment in the Now-Again label’s Vinyl Reserve series, available to subscribers as a 2LP, its contents collecting the singles, the rare album Beginning, and unreleased material (culled from master tapes) from this ’70s band from Zimbabwe (then known as Rhodesia), formed by guitarist Cuthbert Maziwa, with the focus on ’70s Western rock. For those familiar with the roughly contemporaneous Zambian rock (or Zamrock) of W.I.T.C.H. and the Ngozi Family, that there was a Zimbabwean equivalent might not register a surprise. Indeed, folks might already be hip to the Zimbabwean rock (aka Zim heavy) specialists Wells Fargo, whose singles from ’76-’77 were compiled by Now-Again in 2016 as Watch Out! These 28 tracks make a fine companion volume. Like Wells Fargo and the Zamrock acts above, Eye Q focused on original material, and if they were undeniably impacted by Hendrix, Sabbath, Deep Purple etc., their groove-infused riff-laden style won’t be mistaken for any of their influences. Fun, all the way through. A-

Limina, Hidden Spaces (Sonic Ritual) This is the debut album from Los Angeles-based film and video game music composer Tyler Durham, in which he draws upon ambient electronics, contempo classical, and new age, and with particular attention to the zones where those three styles overlap. In the process, he’s blurred the stylistic lines himself, with the results going down easy, no doubt intentionally so. But there’s more to it than relaxed atmospheres, as the set’s half-dozen pieces are intended as a reflection upon the nature of inspiration, specifically how it morphs through the creative process from a seed of an idea into something tangible. Like a record, for instance. Durham’s compositions flow together into an uninterrupted whole, or if you’re listening to the 180 gram while vinyl, there’s one unavoidable interruption. Unsurprisingly, stretches of this album gush with crystalline positivity, as a handful of the uplifting emotional tugs reinforce that Durham works in the movie scoring field, but I dig Emily Kriner’s violin playing, and like I said, the whole goes down easy. B+

Robag Wruhme, “SPEICHER 117” (Kompakt Extra) The folks over at Kompakt are all about listeners experiencing music as part of a series. For two examples, consider the multi-volume Total and Pop Ambient various artists compilations. But Kompakt is equally about the subsidiaries; we have one right here with Kompakt Extra, which is also dedicated to an ongoing, in the label’s own words, “seemingly endless,” series of electronic dance 12-inches called “Speicher.” The name is German for storage, a fact that helps to explain the photo accompanying this promo, where Wruhme is contending with a few carboard boxes (in what looks like an old-time night shirt). Notably, “Speicher 115” from last year also featured Wruhme, and he’s been on Kompakt proper with the 2011 “Donnerkuppel” 12-inch and a couple of appearances in the Total series. The tracks here are aptly described as club thumpers, both laced with chilly futuristics. I can dig it. There is also a touch of wordless gal vocals, a little more prominent in the B-side “Frontex Frappant.” It all makes me want to hit a floor and dance, frankly. A-

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