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

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Lung, Come Clean Right Now (Sofaburn) On the Cincinnati-based Lung’s third album (and the first I’ve heard), the sound reminds me quite a bit of the Alt-indie-grunge ’90s. This will surely not be an enticing proposition for some, but let me add that the lineup consists of cellist-vocalist Kate Wakefield and drummer Daisy Caplan. Other than some guest vocals on “Wave” by Paige Beller, it’s just the two of them throughout, which lends distinctiveness to the record to be sure, though it’s impressive how stretches of Come Clean Right Now conjure the heavy forward motion of a full band. Seriously, a couple times I thought of Helmet, and once, Lung’s thud even brought the Melvins to mind. They complement the rumble and pound with songwriting and singing that’s decidedly art-rocky, but to circle back, in a very ’90s way. The record is also a consistently strong listen, likely because it’s not too fucking long, which is a ’90s-era facet they wisely haven’t adopted. That makes Come Clean Right Now a far more satisfying listen than a whole lot of records people are known to swoon over nostalgically. A-  

Los Psychosis, Rock and Roll Dreams (Black & Wyatt) Featuring Javi Arcega on lead vocals and guitar, the Memphis-based Los Psychosis came to me described as Latinx psychobilly, which I’ll confess had me a little worried purely in genre terms, as most psychobilly is about as personally appealing as getting a can of baked beans shoved up my ass. I’m not talking about The Cramps, a band that I adore, and who I don’t consider to be psychobilly, anyway. For that matter, Los Psychosis don’t remind me of psychobilly either, as they are far too stylistically broad, while keeping a firm handle on the rootsy and also punked-up spit and fire. There’s a swampy aura to much of this set leading me to suggest that fans of The Gun Club and The Flesh Eaters will find Rock and Roll Dreams to their liking, but additionally, the druggy quality of tunes like “Hoppin and Jumpin” and “Ana” tempts me to call this psychedelic-billy, which is a sound I totally support. Plus, “Dionysus Wave” hits like a self-released new wave single from ’79, and “El Vacio” delivers some scuzzy Tex-Mex action. Some of the singing even reminds me of Darby. Weeee! A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Hocine Chaoui, Ouechesma (Outre National) This and the record directly below are the first releases on this label out of Montreuil, a commune located in an eastern suburb of Paris, though there is a connection to a distribution company of the same name that handles such heavyweights as Subline Frequencies, Superior Viaduct, and Akuphone. This LP delivers a remastered version of a cassette that was first released by Oriental Music Production, a French-based Algerian label (now defunct but with a slew of tapes still available), that specialized in reissuing some of the country’s regional output from the ’70s and ’80s. Like this killer serving of the Berber style known as Chaoui, which originated in the Aurès region of Algeria, first recorded in the ’30s and updated here by Hocine Chaoui with drum machines and modern production. The driving nature of the programmed rhythms intensifies a style of music that was clearly quite powerful already. Along the way, horn lines fervently wiggle as the singing is appropriately emphatic. Altogether a fine kickoff to Outre National’s discography. A-

Henri Guédon, Karma (Outre National) This is the first-time vinyl reissue of a 1975 LP, the second album from Guédon, a versatile artist (musician, painter, sculptor) from the Caribbean island of Martinique. With Karma, Guédon cooks up a potent dish of Latin Jazz that’s noted for its frequent injections of vintage synth, courtesy of Jaky Bernard. While this aspect of the band’s overall thrust is undeniably dated, that’s not to the album’s detriment. To the contrary, those spacy reverberations (splurts and flatulence that wouldn’t be out of place on the soundtrack to a late-’70s exploitation flick) do add significant value, though without the band’s collective rhythmic moxie and Michel Pacguit’s skills at the keyboard, the synth would be little more than a novelty. Along with leading the band and adding percussion on a variety of instruments (from cowbell to balafon), Guédon sings, and if he’s not a powerhouse vocalist, he gets the job done. This was originally released on the La Voix Du Globe label out of Paris, where it flew under the radar a bit, it seems. In other words, this is a worthy reissue. A-

Blurry The Explorer, S/T (Six Degrees) Last year, as the pandemic raged across the globe, the selections in this column, which up to that point almost exclusively covered releases obtainable on vinyl, compact disc, or cassette, expanded its focus to include a handful of digital-only releases, some of them benefits for assorted worthy causes, but others just deserving of the attention during a difficult time. As 2021 has progressed, releases lacking in a physical format have all but disappeared in this space, but a recent spate of worthy digital-only stuff has prompted a reconsideration of this shift in priorities, especially as for many, times haven’t really ceased being difficult. For musicians and venues especially, tough times are still very much a reality, as the Delta variant surges and puts the future of live performances on to shaky ground. And so, Blurry the Explorer’s eponymous album the is first in a string of reviews spotlighting digital releases. They will constitute a small, but worthwhile, percentage of the coverage in this column for as long as the impulse endures.

Blurry the Explorer is an outfit organized by drummer Jeremy Gustin that includes guitarists Ryan Dugre and Leo Abrahams and bassist-synth guy Ricardo Dias Gomes. This is their debut, which is loaded with noteworthy guest contributors, including Kalmia Traver (vocals on opener “Limited By Jelly”), Berke Can Özcan (percussion and tape recorder on “Teşekkürler”), Sarah Pedinotti aka LIP TALK (lyrics and vocals on “Bash Bish”), Brian Eno (reciting a poem by Fiona Forte on “Orange Tree Fallen”), and Tenniscoats (vocals and saxophone on “Yoru Ni Yuku”). The core of the record was cut in Lisbon pre-pandemic, and after Gustin’s return to NYC, just as lockdown was starting, he began the process of assembling and refining the songs, which at various points brought to my mind Krautrock,  post-rock, folktronica, and even neo-Tropicalia during the Gomes-sung “Historia da sua Vida.”  Along with sustained passages and flare-ups of strangeness, the record is surprisingly coherent, Also note that “Yoru Ni Yuku” has been remixed four times, available as a separate EP. A-

Sally Decker, In the Tender Dream (NNA Tapes) This is Decker’s first album under her own name (available on CD, cassette, and digital), though she’s recorded previously as Multa Nox (the 2017 cassette Living Pearl for NNA Tapes, which I don’t think I’ve heard), and has attended Mills College out San Francisco way. A lot of music that I’ve encountered over the years with connections to Mills can be accurately described as rigorously avant-garde, and I can dig it. In the Tender Dream is no exception, but it’s necessary to add that Decker’s work exudes an engaging versatility. The press release illuminates the role of feedback systems in the shaping of the album, a facet that’s tangible early on (“The Other Side”) though eventually matters settle into a scheme that ranges from rough-edged electronic experimentation (“All Possible Realities”) to drones (the title track) to analog synth glide a la Laurie Spiegel (also the title track, and “Abode,” as well). There is also poetic expressiveness through spoken texts (“The Loss,” the two-part “Affirmation” and more), an aspect that really asserts the Mills connection. And the feedback definitely comes roaring back in closer “Seen.” Again, I can dig it. A-

Joan Shelley, Ginko & Electric Ursa (No Quarter) Shelley’s a reliably brilliant Louisville, Kentucky-based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist of a folk-Americana disposition who released Ginko in 2012 on a label named Old Kentuck. This reissue is its first time on vinyl, with the wax sea green and in an edition of 2,000, a swell development that reinforces how good she was at such an early stage, Plus, her approach is appealingly robust rather than calculatedly mild, as is too regularly the case with folk and Americana-aligned stuff of recent vintage. I could be accused of harping on this point, but it’s always worth articulating, especially as Ginko features whistling. Electric Ursa’s 2,000 copies are on purple vinyl, with it and Ginko available as a bundle. Getting both is a smart move, but if picking up one is the only option, I’d say go with Electric Ursa, as it’s the first in a string of beautiful and essentially flawless records by Shelley, who has really grown into a contemporary musical treasure. A- / A

Mitchum Yacoub, “Cumbia Divina” b/w “Bansuri” (All-Town Sound) Here’s the first record from this San Diego-based label, and also the debut from Egyptian-American multi-instrumentalist, producer and DJ Yacoub, who also resides in San Diego. This big-hole 45 (available on translucent red or black wax) offers a blend of cumbia and dub on the a-side and an afrobeat-tinged, Bansuri Indian flute-infused instrumental on the flip. In “Cumbia Divina,” the horns are bold (and with a fine sax solo) as the groove is forceful, and with a sweet guitar flourish at the close, but it’s really the voice of Divina Jasso that brings it all together, warm and confident but with a directness that highlights how she, a housemate and friend of Yacoub, ended up contributing to the song almost by accident, by singing along in their shared digs. It’s nice how these things work out. Along with hand drumming, the Bansuri enhances the flip’s tropical flavor, but it’s when the horn section swings into action that the tune fully comes to live. I must say I’m eager to check out what Yacoub has planned for a full-length. B+

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