Graded on a Curve: New in Stores for February 2022, Part Three

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Pan•American, The Patience Fader (Kranky) Pan•American emerged in the late 1990s as the electronic venture of guitarist Mark Nelson, he of the Richmond, VA-based Labradford, themselves one of the vital bands of the ’90s underground. It’s another example of the “solo project” overtaking the outfit that spawned it, as Labradford hasn’t released a record since 2001’s Fixed::Context, while Pan•American has persisted, with The Patience Fader by my count Nelson’s eleventh album released under the sobriquet. It’s a wonderful listen, at once beautiful and weighted emotionally, recorded in isolation during the summer of 2020. It’s more accurately described as a guitar album rather than an electronic one, at least on the surface (lap steel and harmonica also figure in the record’s scheme. But there are surely pieces here where the electronic element is asserted, and productively so. Nelson avoids the increasingly standard maneuvers in contempo ambient electronics, and does the same with his guitar, his playing gentle without becoming oppressively tranquil. ‘tis a heavy record. A-

Mostly Other People Do the Killing, Disasters Vol. 1 (Hot Cup) Along with unpredictability and sharp musicianship, Mostly Other People Do the Killing’s constant factors are bassist-composer-arranger Moppa Elliott (the leader of the ensemble) and drummer Kevin Shea, here joined once again by pianist Ron Stabinsky. This is not the first piano trio lineup for MOPDtK (that would be Paint from 2017), though this set stands out from that one as Stabinsky and Shea both contribute electronics to the recording. The record provides another showcase for Stabinsky’s sheer prowess at the keyboard on eight original compositions from Elliott, all named after locales in Pennsylvania where some sort of calamity occurred. While tapping into piano trio “convention” is a vital aspect of the overall strategy here, so is abstraction, but without following a long-established and by now fairly predictable “start inside, take it outside and then bring it back in” model. Here, inside and out often intermingle simultaneously and productively. While some will view it as a provocation, the electronics add legit dimension. First MOPDtK vinyl. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Jeff Parker, The Relatives (Thrill Jockey) Reissued for the occasion of Thrill Jockey’s 30th anniversary, The Relatives’ initial release arrived halfway through that distinguished stretch, retaining drummer-percussionist Chad Taylor and multi-instrumentalist Chris Lopes (he plays upright bass, electric and acoustic guitars, flute and percussion on this album) from Parker’s 2003 trio set Like-coping on Delmark and adds Sam Barsheshet on Fender Rhodes and Wurlitzer electric pianos. Parker completes the group on electric guitar. Interestingly, Parker only contributes three compositions here, with the title track a co-write with Matthew Lux (his bandmate in Isotope 217). Lopes brings three pieces, Taylor brings one, and Marvin Gaye’s “When Did You Stop Loving Me, When Did I Stop Loving You.” is given a sweet ’70s post-boppish spin. Overall, the sound is rooted in fusion with touches of post-rock, unsurprising given Parker’s background, but it still sounds fresh after 15 years. “Rang (For Michael Zerang)” ends the record on an percussively explosive note. A-

The Detroit Escalator Company, Soundtrack [313] (Mental Groove Records / Musique Pour La Danse) Motown-based multidisciplinary artist and ambient techno specialist Neil Ollivierra’s highly-regarded and potentially quite pricey debut, originally released in 1996 by UK label Ferox as a 2LP limited to 1,000 copies (offering eight tracks) and on CD (with one extra cut), gets a deluxe reissue here, with four bonus selections added to the 2LP, which was half-speed mastered at 45rpm (in two limited editions, with the window of availability closing fast), and two more extras on the CD (a 3-panel digipak, also limited). While there are certainly elements in the overall scheme, particularly rhythmic, that are representative of its era, that’s not the same as falling back onto worn-out tropes. While it doesn’t feel right to describe Soundtrack [313] as unpredictable, the progression (which hits 72 minutes on CD) is never clichéd, and that’s seriously impressive, as people have had 25 years to appropriate Ollivierra’s moves. In the end, this really says something about the uncoppable subtleties of inspiration. A-

Etran de L’Aïr, Agadez (Sahel Sounds) Agadez is the second album by Etran de L’Aïr, following No. 1, which came out in 2018 but made a bigger splash in 2020 (the band also delivered the first volume in Sahel Sounds’ Music from Sarahan WhatsApp series of digital EPs that year). In Christopher Kirkley’s informative text accompanying this album (named for the band’s city of residence, a hotbed of Saharan guitar action) the distinction is made between Tuareg guitarists who look to Western rock models and Etran de L’Aïr’s style, which is described as Pan-African. The lack of wailing or shredding isn’t missed however, as the guitars interweave into an energetic glide in tandem with the sheer propulsion of the bass and drums. Agadez surely has aspects of the trance throughout, but the overriding tone is celebratory. That Etran de L’Aïr are renowned as a wedding band is no surprise. Indeed, their skill as a performance unit is well-displayed on No. 1, which was recorded live. Captured in the band’s mobile studio, the set is no less rousing, and it ends in glorious fashion with “Tarha Warghey Ichile.” A

Sarah Shook & the Disarmers, Nightroamer (Thirty Tigers) With a change of label (Shook’s prior two were released by Bloodshot) comes a broader sound, though it’s not like Nightroamer is a plunge into countrypolitan for the North Carolinian singer-songwriter and guitarist. There remains plenty of twang in the mix as the cow-punk roots are still showing, but pop gestures are more prominent and smartly sequenced as to not be jarring; had “I Got This” opened the record, my guess it that more than a few listeners familiar with Shook would’ve been befuddled, myself included. Not every song here rises to the same level of quality, but they get off to a solid start with the pedal steel-infused strum-rock of “Somebody Else,” follow it up with the crisply riffy “Been Lovin’ You,” flash a little neo-’50s pop with “If It’s Poison” after that, and then deliver a vibrant dose of honky-tonk bounce with “No Mistakes,” easily my favorite song on the record. But the title track dishes some hearty contempo roots rock, and as said, Shook doesn’t misplace the twang, at least not for long. B+

This entry was posted in The TVD Record Store Club. Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.
  • SUPPORTING YOUR LOCAL INDIE SHOPS SINCE 2007


  • Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text
  • Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text