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

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: New York United, Volume Two (577) This set follows-up a lovely self-titled LP from 2019, on which an exquisite fusion of jazz and electronics was unveiled as conjured by the quartet of Daniel Carter (saxophones, flute, trumpet, clarinet), Tobias Wilner (synthesizers, percussion, vocals, piano, guitar), Djibril Toure (bass), and Federico Ughi (drums). As on the first record, the basis is group improvisation, although it’s more frequently groove-rooted than purely abstract (Toure is noted for playing bass with Wu-Tang Clan), which is further enhanced in post-production by Wilner, his input honing a sound that’s likely to appeal to lovers of ambient electronics and strains of beat-driven techno (and when Carter blows trumpet, even Hassell’s Fourth World music, but just a little bit). But fans of avant-jazz will find much to enjoy as well. When the first album came out, the group moniker/ album title connected like a reflection upon the bond of togetherness. Given all that’s happened since, it now registers like a statement on survival. Available on vinyl (limited grey and black) and digipak CD. A-

Jessica Ackerley and Daniel Carter, Friendship: Lucid Shared Dreams and Time Travel (577) This digipak CD serves as my introduction to guitarist Ackerley. She plays acoustic with remarkable skill and communicative prowess in duo with Carter, who brings his reliable stash of horns (sax, flute, trumpet, clarinet) to the recording; throughout its eight dialogues, he improvises at a typically high level. While these interactions were documented at Scholes Street Studio in Brooklyn, the musical relationship (indeed, the friendship) of Ackerley and Carter was solidified by playing outdoors in a park last summer. Even with this knowledge, the familiarity and the comfort level are at times astonishing here. I’ll add that the atmosphere that’s established by the pair is casual and quite approachable rather than full-tilt bananas, which is worth mentioning given Carter’s rep for wild skronk (though it’s not the only arrow in his quiver) and Ackerley’s background in experimental noise (likewise, amongst other pursuits), as she also plays electric. I’m eager to hear more of her work. Daniel Carter continues to amaze. A

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: O.V. Wright, A Nickel and a Nail and Ace of Spades (Real Gone) Originally released in 1971 or ’72 (sources differ), the cover of this album is definitely a conversation piece. Looking at it, you might think the label’s center of operations was a storage shed, but no, Back Beat was a subsidiary of Duke Records, an important enterprise in the history of gospel (through Don Robey’s Peacock imprint), R&B (on Duke proper), and soul via Back Beat, featuring such notables as Carl Carlton (“Everlasting Love”), Roy Head (“Treat Her Right”), and the prolific Wright, who had five albums released on Back Beat, of which this was number four. Cut at Royal Recording Studios in Memphis with production by Willie Mitchell and featuring the Hi Records rhythm section and the Memphis Horns, the music is uncut Southern soul, a sound that contrasted with the increasingly polished direction taken by so many early ’70s soul singers and production houses. The band here is unimpeachable. Wright’s gospel drenched vocalizing never falters. Al Green fans shouldn’t sleep on this one. A

Rick Deitrick, Coyote Canyon (Tompkins Square) This is the fourth reissue/ archival album from guitarist Deitrick, who is (thus far) the most prolific of the players to have been introduced to the wider public via Tompkins Square’s Imaginational Anthem Volume 8: The Private Press, an album now nearly five years old. Folks who know the first few volumes of that instrumental guitar series might be thinking that Deitrick’s an American Primitive guy, but that’s not the case. However, I don’t want to cultivate the impression that he’s undertaking some radical departure. Really, the main difference is that Deitrick plays in standard tuning. This is a significant distinction to be sure, but much of his work (here and elsewhere) strives for beauty regions that’re comparable to assorted nooks of the American Primitive impulse. Coyote Canyon features seven tracks recorded between 1972-’75, with a nearly ten-minute piece from 1999, “Three Sisters,” serving as the tidy record’s finale. The span of years isn’t really discernible, and Deitrick’s playing exudes calm without becoming overly tranquil. A-

Divine Horsemen, Hot Rise of an Ice Cream Phoenix (In the Red) Arising from the general excellence of The Flesh Eaters’ I Used to Be Pretty (released in 2019 on Yep Roc) is this new album by the band that Chris Desjardins formed after The Flesh Eaters’ initial dissolution in 1983. The sweet kicker is that vocalist Julie Christensen, who’s a crucial element in Divine Horsemen’s essence (and who contributed to I Used to Be Pretty) is here in full force, as are guitarist Peter Andrus, bassist Bobby Permanent, and drummer DJ Bonebrake, all former Flesh Eaters/Horsemen save Permanent, who stepped in to replace Robyn Jameson (RIP). The singing and playing remains classique punk-edged and roots soulful (augmented as ever with Chris D.’s splendid pulp/ Psychotronic/ B-movie Hollywood sensibility), the original songs are up to snuff (including the two roped in from outside sources), and the covers highlight a range of inspiration that’s just magnificent. Of particular note: “Can’t You See Me,” a song from Robert Downey Sr.’s movie Bound that hits me a little like Mary Monday singing with the Heartbreakers. A-

Peter Holsapple & Chris Stamey, Our Back Pages (Omnivore) This column’s prior installment included positive coverage of the digital reissue of two experimental works featuring the guitar playing of Chris Stamey. This week, the spotlight spills onto a swell set of dB’s compositions in new arrangements by Stamey in tandem with his guitar-playing and singing cohort in that band, Peter Holsapple, available on vinyl (a Record Store Day release back in June), CD (with two worthy bonus tracks), and digital. The band (completed with bassist Gene Holder and drummer Will Rigby, both on board for this set along with guests) cut a pair of total power-pop / jangle-pop killers with Stands for Decibels in 1981 and Repercussion the next year (many were introduced to them combined on one CD) before Stamey exited. Naturally, Our Back Pages draws heavily on those LPs, but there’s also “Darby Hall” (on the CD) from third album Like This and “Molly Says” from the next one, The Sound of Music. It’s all quite likeable, but the highlight is “Picture Sleeve,” a newish tune conceived from the memory of an old one. A-

No Safety, Spill, Live at the Knitting Factory, & Live in Italy, 1984 (Cuneiform) My introduction to No Safety came through the track “I Sleep” on the late ’80s compilation The 20th Anniversary of the Summer of Love 1987-1967 from Mark Kramer’s Shimmy Disc label. The band made a positive impression, particularly multi-instrumentalist and singer Zeena Parkins, who contributed autoharp to the band (also keyboards, sampler, accordion) and during the same period, was half of OWT with David Linton. I didn’t hear more from No Safety until I picked up the five compilation volumes of Live at the Knitting Factory released singly and together (I bought them as an ultra-inexpensive box set) which offered two tracks from the unit, “Discuss It” and “Oh No,” on Volume 3.

I should add that No Safety was a quintet. Along with Parkins, the members on second album Spill were Chris Cochrane on guitar, sampler, and vocals, Ann Rupel on bass and vocals, Tim Spelios on drums and percussion (replacing Pippen Barnett, who plays on their full-length debut This Lost Leg, released in ’89 by RecRec) and Doug Seidel on guitars. This lineup persisted through Live at the Knitting Factory, their final album released prior to breaking up. In Italy on their final tour, they were captured again in performance, with Kato Hideki having replaced Seidel, this recording unreleased until earlier this year as it accompanies reissues of Spill and Live at the Knitting Factory, this trifecta digital-only (other than a side of a split 7-inch with The Flying Luttenbachers from ’94, This Lost Leg is the only vinyl release in No Safety’s discography).

Released on CD in 1992 by Knitting Factory Works, Spill delivers an extended dose of avant-rock with a consistency and freshness that’s at times quite stunning. I mention this in part because some of the activities by No Safety’s contemporaries on the Downtown scene haven’t aged so well (and in fact didn’t sound so great back then). For Live at the Knitting Factory, which came out on CD in ’93, the band’s guitar edge had sharpened considerably, which isn’t all that surprising given its reality as a performance document. But on the other hand, long stretches of the disc feel connected to the artier side post-punk in a way that’s not really tangible on Spill (the two albums share no tracks in common). By the last few selections, I was thinking of Deerhoof and Rupel’s later work with God is My Co-Pilot. This is where the short but hard-punching Live in Italy picks up an takes off. Seriously, it sounds like they could made it onto one of those Kill Rock Stars comps or even Troubleman Mix-Tape (Hey, come to think of it, that 2CD included a track by The Flying Luttenbachers). A-/ A-/ A

Nina Simone, Little Girl Blue (Bethlehem – BMG) It’s been quite a year for the late Nina Simone. She’s one of the highlights of the music doc Summer of Soul (an absolutely essential experience for music fans). There’s BMG’s earlier 2LP/ 2CD collection of Montreux performances. And now, here’s a reissue of her debut album on vinyl (black or blue) and CD. For a more extensive examination of this album, or I should say the songs that comprise this album, please seek out the review on this website of BMG’s 2017 compilation Mood Indigo: The Complete Bethlehem Singles, as all the songs from this album were issued as either the A-side or the flip of a 45. That Mood Indigo offered additional material could lead some to surmise that Little Girl Blue is superfluous, but I’m going to speculate that those people aren’t big Simone fans. Unsurprisingly, as it’s one of the strongest and most pleasurable of debut albums, Little Girl Blue has been reissued a whole lot of times, but often under different titles and seldom with as much respect as BMG is giving it, as they include an enlightening new liner essay by Daphne A. Brooks. A

Takatsuki Trio Quartett, Live in Hessen (Creative Sources Recordings) This compact disc came to me early in 2021, but like so many things, and frequently, CDs received in the mail, it got lost in the ever mounting and shifting shuffle-stacks, but thankfully only temporarily, because the two long pieces that comprise this release, each featuring a core trio augmented with an additional player, are tremendous and wholly recommended for fans of free improvisation. The trio consists of Rieko Okunda on piano, viola, and voice, Antti Virtaranta on double bass, and Joshua Weitzel on guitar and shamisen (a three-stringed trad Japanese instrument).

For “Kassel,” the three are joined by tenor saxophonist Matthias Schubert, and while much of the 28-minute track’s progression is reminiscent of euro free improv, there is some avant-jazz-like action, including an early stretch of lamentation that suggests late ‘60s NYC. Schubert also blows hot near track’s end, but the instrumental makeup, and foremost, the playing, resists easy comparisons. For “Wiesbaden,” Dirk Marwedel joins the trio on extended saxophone, with delightfully exploratory results. It’s important to note that extended doesn’t necessarily equate to extreme, as the group are far more devoted to tension and attentive to space. Even though these are live recordings, some level of post-production seems to have been involved, which might be where the sound of water derives. It ends Live in Hessen on an intriguing note. A-

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