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

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

NEW RELEASE PICS: Satoko Fujii, Piano Music (Libra) This CD is a life-affirming gift from one of modern music’s greatest pianists. It offers two long tracks, the first, “Shiroku,” lasting 19 minutes, the second, “Fuwarito,” reaching 27, that wouldn’t exist except for the Covid-19 pandemic. They capture Fujii alone, and not in the long-established solo mode, but instead creating sound collages built from recordings of prepared piano, Fujii stitching them together seamlessly using a computer at home during quarantine. Sound collage is a new discipline for Fujii, but prepared piano is not (interestingly, one of her methods is placing a guitar Ebow on the strings), so that this excursion into unfamiliar territory is grounded in expertise. I mention this in part because the drones in “Shiroku” are truly first rate and additionally striking, as the sustained resonances were assembled from pieces lasting only one or two minutes. In his enjoyable liner notes for the disc, Shiro Matsuo mentions that not all of Fujii’s fans will be pleased with Piano Music’s contents, but I sure am. The disc is an astounding accomplishment. A

Norman W. Long, BLACK BROWN GRAY GREEN (Hausu Mountain) Long is a Chicago-based guy who’s toured as part of Angel Bat Dawid and tha Brothahood and collaborated with Damon Locks and members of Tortoise (amongst others), but he’s mostly known as a sound artist with an emphasis on field recordings (often manipulated field recordings, which are the best kind). This release (available on CD and cassette) opens with the nearly 23-minute “SOUTHEAST – LIVE 2019,” a recording of a performance held at the Experimental Sound Studio on May 17 of the year in the piece’s title. Listened to loud on headphones, the work is immersive and holds stretches that border on the overwhelming. If altered to varying degrees by Long’s hand, much of the progression documents recognizable sources (crickets chirping and birdsong, for two examples), but there’s still plenty of mystery in the unwinding. It’s followed by four worthwhile pieces recorded in Long’s home studio that utilize sounds captured near his residence in Chicago’s south side. Overall, a brilliant and admirable release. A-

Sonny Vincent, Snake Pit Therapy (Svart) For a long time, Sonny Vincent was mostly noted for singing and playing guitar in the first-wave NYC punk band Testors. But as documented by Diamond Distance & Liquid Fury- Sonny Vincent: Primitive 1969-76, which came out last year via HoZac, Vincent was haunting recording studios much earlier than that (in the protopunk outfits Distance, Fury, and Liquid Diamonds). Even better, he’s remains active and continues to pack a wallop with this set of 15 songs, its title shared with Vincent’s recent book of recollections, poetry and fiction. That he’s still dishing out worthy stuff isn’t exactly a surprise, as his 2014 album Spiteful (featuring Rat Scabies, Glen Matlock, and Steve Mackay) was quite the solid undertaking. Vincent reliably radiates a Noo Yawk street-rockin’ swagger, but importantly, he doesn’t go overboard with the attitude, instead focusing his energies on writing songs of high quality. Snake Pit Therapy is no dress-up retro show, rocking hard and catchy enough to please fans of mid-period Hüsker Dü (Vincent has played with Greg Norton). Thoroughly vital. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICK: Sheila Jordan, Comes Love: Lost Session 1960 (Capri) The 11 tracks on this CD predate Jordan’s classic Portrait of Sheila album on Blue Note by two years, although her recording debut was singing four songs on an obscure LP credited to bassist Peter Ind in 1960. It’s unclear which occurred first, the Ind session or this date, as the specifics of Comes Love are a little hazy; we don’t even know who the accompanying musicians are. They might be John Knapp on piano, Ziggy Wellman on drums, and either Steve Swallow (who played on Portrait of Sheila) or Gene Perlman on bass (as they were Jordan’s band during her engagements at the Greenwich Village club the Page 3 around this time), but there’s really no way to be sure. What is abundantly clear is that Comes Love documents Jordan in strong voice, with nary a subpar or even a tentative selection in the bunch. As I’ve always found jazz singing to be something of a tough sell (yes there are plenty of exceptions), this is no small feat. Is it as strong as Portrait of Sheila? No, but it does find her hovering in the proximity of greatness. A-

Colloboh, “Entity Relation” EP (Leaving) Colloboh is the moniker of experimental techno producer Collins Oboh, who’s based in Baltimore but was born in Nigeria. Any prior records he’s released have escaped my attention, but this 5-song set is his first for Leaving, with the association likely to raise his profile, and deservedly so, as the pieces collected here are regularly engaging. In particular, there is a vibe resembling contempo R&B (or shall we say, “new school,” meaning post-1980) in both opener “Turning&” and closer “Reason,” much of this connection related to the emotive and effects-tinged singing. That’s not to say there aren’t songlike elements and even grooves involved, but the whole thing was apparently created with a modular synth setup, with “Borderline” diving deep into an increasingly strange (and even glitchy) techno atmosphere sans vocals. “RPM+” is a considerably more buoyant affair, while “one2Many” swings back toward song structure with an almost tropical feel. The black or transparent blue vinyl isn’t out until early 2022, the cassette in October. The digital is out now. A-

Myra Holder, Four Mile Road (Coyote) This is the remastered digital-only reissue of a record Coyote put out in 1989, this edition supervised by the set’s original producer Chris Stamey. The description of Four Mile Road as proto-Americana is astute. While the album is loaded with guests that solidify a Hoboken by way of North Carolina sensibility (along with Stamey, there’s his dB’s bandmate and Myra’s ex-husband Gene Holder, Pete Moser, Mitch Easter, Faye Hunter, Sue Garner and more), my thoughts after rescuing a CD copy of this set from a dollar bin in the early ’90s mostly concerned the mild similarity to Lucinda Williams. That’s a nice thing to have on the mind, but it also reinforces that Holder wasn’t overtaken by the assembled talent. And I dug the contents enough that after stumbling across a used LP a couple years late, I picked it up, only to be disappointed by the omission of the subtly Feelies-esque “John Calvin,” a bonus track planted in the middle of the CD. That song sounds better than ever as part of this edition, which will hopefully entice a few folks to seek out used copies of their own. A-

Ladymonix, “Steppin’ Out” 12-inch (Frizner Electric) Producer and DJ Ladymonix is a native of Baltimore and a current resident of Detroit. By the looks of it, she’s been at it since at least 2018, with four prior 12-inch EPs, all on her label Frizner Electric. And by the sounds of “Steppin’ Out,” which is my introduction to her work, she’s unreservedly focused on crafting dancefloor bangers. The title track is the big one, kicking off the A-side with the appropriate level of interwoven rhythmic energy. While the track’s not a groundbreaker, I found the recording of women in conversation that’s layered in early to be an unexpected twist.  Noted Detroit producer Waajeed delivers a solid remix, specifically “Waajeed’s Get Into It Girl Dub.” While not as dubbed out (in the classically reggae manner) as I expected, there’s still plenty of echo, and the ragged intensity is appealing (though it ends rather minimally). And similar to the beginning of “Steppin’ Out,” the opening seconds of “The Nerve” would be perfect for starting a long-ass conga line. The title of “It’s a Party Dammit” should clue you in to what Ladymonix is up to. B+

Sweet Nobody, We’re Trying Our Best (Daydream) This, the second album by these Long Beach, CA indie-dreamy-gazing-janglers (Joy Deyo on vocals and guitar, Brian Dishon on drums, guitar and vocals, Casey Snyder on lead guitar, and Adam Nolan on bass) was recorded pre-pandemic but remained on the shelf after the shit hit the fan. But here it is, out now (or less than a day from now). The succession of hyphens a couple lines above hopefully makes clear that Sweet Nothing are honing a blend of styles with the emphasis on the melodic. Per the PR for the record, the band takes inspiration from Felt, Go-Betweens, and Johnny Marr, but with Deyo as the reliable focal point, the songs hit a little differently, especially when they’re tapping a classic pop-rock vein (like a band that lives near a beach) in the album highlight “Rhoda.” If other songs don’t maintain those highs (“Other Humans” gets close), nothing here is dud-like. They could be faulted for being a little too pop-rock trad at times, but Deyo has the pipes to largely make up for it and the band can get surprisingly loud (e.g., “White Lies”). B+

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