Graded on a Curve: New in Stores for January 2022, Part Two

Part two of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for January 2022. Part one is here.

NEW RELEASE PICK: Tony Malaby’s Sabino, The Cave of Winds (Pyroclastic) “Everything was nuts, so I just had to go down there and throw sound with my guys. It got me through and kept me positive.” The speaker is saxophonist Tony Malaby. The nutzoid everything is Covid and the Presidential election of last year. Down there is a New Jersey turnpike (nicknamed in this CD’s title) where Malaby met up with numerous improvising contemporaries during the height of the pandemic. These activities led him to reconvene Sabino, the group heard on his debut album from 2000, a self-titled affair released by the Arabesque label. That means Michael Formanek is on double bass and Tom Rainey on drums here, but with guitarist Ben Monder instead of Marc Ducret, who played on the debut.

Interestingly, Monder was Sabino’s guitarist prior to the recording with Ducret, so the interactive flow here is in no way tempered through a late addition to a collective experience that’s decades old; before Sabino, Malaby and Formanek played in the Mingus Big Band and then joined Rainey in Marty Ehrlich’s group. And while Malaby is a stalwart free improvisor, he can also play “inside” like nobody’s business, with the turnpike sessions featuring a re-engagement with standards and the jazz repertoire (courtesy of Billy Mintz and John Hébert). While there’s nothing resembling conventional balladry here, opener “Corinthian Leather” is something of a free-bop affair, and a sweet one at that. In a few places (a stretch of “Life Coach (For Helias)” in particular), ’60s Ornette came to mind, I suspect due to Formanek and Rainey possessing an elevated rhythmic thing that’s league with David Izenzon and Charles Moffett. Monder’s sound ranges from clean, recognizably jazzy lines to post-metallic amp splatter. And Malaby’s one of the few saxophonists who sounds as killer on soprano as he does on tenor. Nice all around. A

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Reiko & Tori Kudo, Tangerine (A Colourful Storm) Tori Kudo remains most associated with Maher Shalal Hash Baz, but his contributions to the Japanese underground span back to the late ’70s-early ’80s and Noise, a band which also featured contributions from Reiko Omura; Tori and Reiko later married. In addition to a string of solo records, Reiko was also part of Maher Shalal Hash Baz, as she and Tori released a handful of duo albums, of which Tangerine was the last, issued on CD in 2013 by the Hyotan label. This edition is Tangerine’s vinyl debut, and with a new cover. The sound is wonderfully sparse and gentle, categorized as folk, which isn’t wrong but doesn’t communicate the music’s reach, which resists easy comparisons, though there are few; Peter Jefferies’ solo work fleetingly came to mind, and by extension John Cale. But it’s “The Swallow II,” which manages to combine Young Marble Giants and elements of God Bless the Red Krayola and All Who Sail With It, that delivers the record its standout track. Comes with an insert, a postcard and lyrics in Japanese and English. A

Rapoon, Fallen Gods (Abstrakce) Rapoon is the project of Robin Storey, who co-founded the noted experimental-industrial outfit Zoviet France in 1980, a group he exited in 1992, the same year Rapoon’s debut Dream Circle emerged. Released in 1994, Fallen Gods is Rapoon’s third in what would become a insanely voluminous discography; two more releases followed in ’94, with Vernal Crossing already reissued by Abstrakce in 2020. As was the case with that set, this is Fallen Gods first time on vinyl. Irrefutable is that Storey digs repetition in the music, though unlike others in the industrial field, he’s not dancey but tribal, as Rapoon’s been tagged as ethno-ambient. While there are aspects that date this set, things never tip over into the corny or the lame. Potentially of interest to Jon Hassell fans. Please note that Fallen Gods is being offered for purchase in bundles with the expanded reissue of Erik Wøllo’s Silver Beach (1986), or the reissue Juan Belda’s eponymous LP (also ’86), or with the Belda and D.K.’s Eighteen Movements (2021), all releases from this highly interesting Spanish label. A-

Boyracer, Assuaged & “Bulletproof” EP (Emotional Response) It’s been a while since we’ve checked in on the long-running Cottonwood, AZ-based Emotional Response label, so let’s jump right in with two from Boyracer, the even longer-running band (having emerged as part of the great indie rock wave of the 1990s) headed by Stewart Anderson, who just happens to be the Emotional Response’s founder-operator. Assuaged is the unit’s 14th full-length, which came out in August of last year, and it delivers another svelte slab of indie pop with nicely calibrated punk energy and a few subtle neo-’60s touches (think Mod, not psych). Although Anderson is the band’s only constant member, the guy-gal vocal interplay has been consistent, with Christina Riley sharing the mic for the last few. If the heights this album reaches aren’t as lofty as a few of Boyracer’s prior efforts, they still get up there pretty high, and that the band still sounds this good this far into their lifespan is a point worth celebrating. B+

The opening title cut of Boyracer’s 4-song “Bulletproof” EP is culled from Assuaged, with a single version of the tune closing out the set. On the money is the self-described New Zealand vibe, as sequenced between the “Bulletproof”s is a swell cover of “Walking in a Straight Line” by unjustly neglected Kiwis Nocturnal Projections (they featured siblings Peter and Graeme Jefferies and were retrospectively part of the Xpressway scene rather than Flying Nun proper), and the equally nifty “Graeme Downes,” which is named after a founding member of The Verlaines but frankly sounds nearer to The Bats to me, and with a hint of Robyn Hitchcock in the vocal department (a quality heard on Assuaged, as well). The EP’s two ultra-limited cassette editions sold out quickly (the release date was November 1), but the digital is still available. A-

Die Schiefe Bahn, “Six Song Demo” (Emotional Response) Although Emotional Response chose 7-inch vinyl for this release (it came out on December 15), its six songs were initially issued by the band on cassette back in November of 2020, dropping the whole half dozen onto sides A and B of the tape DIY-style, and also sensible as no individual track exceeds two minutes in length. But grooving six songs into 7-inch wax also has its appeal, particularly as the sound of this Berlin and Hamburg-based trio (two visual artists and film student) coheres into a solid post-punk statement. Kleenex is a good point of comparison, though an important distinction is that Die Schiefe Bahn are extenders of a long-established tradition rather than groundbreakers themselves, a difference that I have no particular problem with, as post-punk remains fertile territory and this trio is inspired and non-generic in execution, a swell combination. As the members are involved in numerous bands and projects (with collective rehearsal room Allee der Kosmonauten the locus), I suspect this might be Die Schiefe Bahn’s sole release. A-

James Ilgenfritz, Brian Chase, Robbie Lee, Loss and Gain (Infrequent Seams) There was a time not too long ago when it appeared the compact disc’s days were numbered. Well, not no more. And if the CD is going to stick around, then it’s sweet that labels like Infrequent Seams are consistently keeping design standards high. Along with a superb front cover layout, Loss and Gain comes in a six panel wallet (the cassette, limited to 100 and with a wraparound paper cover, is no less impressive). But it seems I’m putting the cart before the horse. Minus worthwhile music, elaborate packaging begins to lose its appeal. However, Loss and Gain has the balance just right, which is Infrequent Seams’ way. Ilgenfritz plays contrabass, Chase handles the drums, and Lee adds saxophones, recorders, flutes, and electronics to the table. Described as blending lowercase abstraction, jazz introspection, and contempo chamber classical, the sounds are rigorous in execution but with only intermittent flare-ups of wild flutter and squawk. That all three players are indisputable bruisers makes the restraint all the more fascinating. A

seablite, “Breadcrumbs” b/w “Ink Bleeds” (Emotional Response) Here’s the most recent of the Emotional Response releases covered in this week’s roundup, having just come out on New Year’s Day, but with the color vinyl of this 45 is already sold out. The black wax is still available, so fans of shoegaze and dream pop who aren’t already hip to the sound of this San Francisco-based 4-piece might want to put the kibosh on the dilly-dallying and investigate. seablite debuted with a self-titled cassette EP in 2017, followed by the full-length Grass Stains and Novocaine two years later and then the “High​-​Rise Mannequins” 10-inch in 2020. For these two songs, seablite lean into the pop side of the equation but without getting especially ethereal, with “Breadcrumbs” working up appealing momentum. And on the other side, “Ink Bleeds” is catchy, bordering on jangly, even. Lending the group a touch of distinctiveness is the use of drum machines, the apparatus(es) complex enough in the scheme that Andy Pastalaniec (whose also responsible for Chime School) gets credited exclusively with their operation. B+

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