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

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Joy Guidry, Radical Acceptance (Whited Sepulchre) The vinyl for this release (180 gram lavender) isn’t likely to arrive until June, but waiting until then to sing the praises of NYC-based bassoonist and composer Guidry’s music simply makes no sense. It’s available digitally now and it’s a doozy, so fans of free expression should check it out and get those orders in. “Just Because I Have a Dick Doesn’t Mean I’m a Man,” Radical Acceptance’s opening spoken word piece, illuminates Guidry’s experience as a trans person, with their insights impacting everything that comes after, which ranges from electronic ambience (“Face to Face,” “Grace”) to wildly skronking and achily emotive free jazz (numerous selections, with “Inner Child” a rip-roaring delight) to a short bit of a cappella singing suggestive of a field recording (“Down in the Valley”) to a stretch of ambience that registers as being more environmentally derived (“72 Hours”). Also noteworthy is how Guidry’s use of electronics seems to extend into the improvised pieces, lending them a raw texture that’s utterly splendid. A

Author & Punisher, Krüller (Relapse) Krüller is San Diego-based Tristan Shone’s ninth full-length as Author & Punisher, but it’s my first taste of his self-described industrial doom-drone metal one-man-band. Having gathered a notion of what was in store, my expectations were largely met in qualitative terms, though I was a bit surprised, and pleasantly so, at the degree of legit songwriting that’s on display here. Given that Shone relies upon custom built mechanisms-controllers and speakers called Drone Machines and Dub Machines, I was braced for an experience that was structural, but decidedly more abrasive, pummeling, and bombastic. All three attributes are present (and in spades, I’d say), but there is also a melodic sensibility consistently at work across the record that’s impressively non-hackneyed (by which I mean shamelessly mimicking questionable models) while still being recognizably Metallic in nature. The atmospheric moments were also unexpected, as were the synths, though given the mention of industrial I should’ve saw it coming. But really, don’t get the idea Krüller isn’t heavy. It is. But good. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Roky Erickson & The Explosives, Halloween: Live 1979-1981 (SteadyBoy) In 1974, after release from state psychiatric supervision, Roky Erickson formed Bleib Alien, which morphed into the Aliens and recorded a 15-song session with CCR’s Stu Cook that resulted in a pair of LPs, one in the UK (1980) and the other in the US (’81). But before those albums were even released, he’d hooked up with Austin band The Explosives for a series of live shows, with songs from seven locations collected on this 2LP, a repress of a Norton set from 2008 (SteadyBoy previously handled the CD). For lovers of 13th Floor Elevators that are hearing this material for the first time, the change of direction, essentially a combination of lean, tough hard rock with horror and occult themes, can take a little getting used to. Conversely, I’ve met folks who heard this era of Erickson first (some of them introduced to it through the Return of the Living Dead soundtrack) and profess to prefer it. That’s not me, but listening to these 17 songs and a concluding radio spot, I can surely understand that perspective. It’s inspired stuff. A-

Moving Sidewalks, Flash (RockBeat) Before they formed ZZ Top, guitarist Billy Gibbons and drummer Dan Mitchell were part of The Moving Sidewalks, with bassist Don Summers and keyboardist Tom Moore completing the band. While their existence is no secret, this album, which holds the majority of the group’s output, has never really grown into a must for collectors or even gathered a cult following (at least in my experience), though it has been reissued many times since the early 1990s. Once Flash is heard, the reason for this general lack of esteem becomes pretty obvious; the record’s just not that good. Along with Jimi Hendrix’s enthusiasm for Gibbons’ guitar playing, maybe the biggest part of Moving Sidewalks’ lore is their camaraderie with the 13th Floor Elevators. Listening to Flash, there’s little in the way of direct musical ties, as opener “Flashback” sounds like it could’ve been recorded in Burbank, CA. Subsequent tracks recall Steppenwolf and Vanilla Fudge. There’s also a flat-out blues number, some goofus trippy stuff, and the very swank A-side to their first single, “99th Floor. B

Kasai Allstars, Black Ants Always Fly Together, One Bangle Makes No Sound & “Black Ants Remixes” (Crammed Discs) Black Ants came out in 2021 and was the first album in four years for this outfit based in Kinshasa, the capital city of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. That means it’s not exactly new, but the LP and CD are still available alongside the recently released digital EP “Black Ants Remixes,” which offers versions of album cuts by French producer Martin Meissonnier, Lagos/ London artist and producer Ekiti Sound, Italian producer Khalab, US avant-rock titans Deerhoof, and one each by Spooky-J and pq of the Anglo-Ugandan collective Nihiloxica. That shapes up to quite the international affair, with the six remixes rounded out with a previously unreleased track recorded during the Black Ants sessions. Consisting of no less than 15 musicians (and as many as 25) from five different groups from the Kasai region, the Allstars groove but they also glide as their songs are infused with electronic elements nicely contemporizing the sound even before these remixers got down to business.

And while the differences between the originals and the interpretations are palpable, Kasai never gets lost in the process. Meissonnier’s take on “Unity is Strength” rattles, grinds and throbs in cutting-edge club style, while Spooky-J brings the bounce to “Bird Woman Baby.” As one might surmise, Deerhoof’s entry is something of a departure. It exits the dancefloor, to be sure, as their reshaping of “Olooh, a Gathering Cry” is distorted and surreal but with Kasai’s presence still felt. But Ekiti Sound’s version of “Kasai Munene” reinvigorates the groove with the EP’s most forthrightly danceable track. Khalab’s mix of “The Large Bird, the Woman and the Baby” certainly reverberates, but it’s as much of a head trip as a body shaker. The same can be said for pq’s version of “The Goat’s Voice,” even as it delivers a sweet mess of electro bass throb. After all this, the unaltered, unadorned Kasia Allstars come back into focus with the flowing beauty moves of “Ngoma Yande.” A- / A-

Kill Alters, Armed To The Teeth L.M.O.M.M. (Hausu Mountain) Kill Alters is the NYC-based trio led by composer-vocalist-drum machine programmer-synthesist Bonnie Baxter, with co-producer/mixer, sound engineer, and synthesist Nico Kennedy, and drum pummel specialist Hisham Bharoocha (Black Dice, Lightning Bolt, Boredoms) rounding out the group. Like so much of the music that’s entered my consciousness via Chicago’s Hausu Mountain, this cassette-CD is nicely fucked (no surprise, given that the label’s name references one of the strangest of Japanese movies). And Armed To The Teeth L.M.O.M.M. is downright damaged at the start, as “hypnagogic phase” connects like an interweaving of lo-res David Lynchian fever dreams, though the record does become tangibly more songlike as it progresses, with elements of pop, rock, and hip-hop amidst the blasted, the blown-out, the overloaded, and the stutter-spastic. Twisted yet precise, the incidental found sound and Baxter’s archival family recordings really enhance the strangeness. “Why Do You Scream” is a total scorcher. A-

Tomato Flower, “Gold Arc” (Ramp Local) This six song EP doesn’t appear to have a physical release (well, there is a floral grid T-shirt available on Bandcamp), but hopefully that’s only temporary as “Gold Arc”’s pleasures add up to an appreciable sum. Tomato Flower (Mike Alfieri on drums, Jamison Murphy on guitar and vocals, and Austyn Wohlers on guitar, keyboards and vocals) hail from the Charm City (that’s Baltimore, MD, don’tcha know), which makes sense given a detectable post-rockish, at times borderline mathy quality to some of the guitar patterns on display. But the biggest part of the trio’s sound is an unusual but charming combination that I’ll call lounge-exotic-soft-art pop. Much of this angle comes down to Wohlers vocals, which hit upon those styles without straining for effect and without losing track of the art pop (this is assuredly not a retro thing). Suffice it to say, folks into Stereolab, Arto Lindsay, and Beauty Pill would do good to check this out. And again, the guitars persist in bringing Dustin Wong (from Baltimore) and Sarah Lipstate (not from Baltimore) to mind. B+

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