Record Time is Paste’s monthly column that takes a glimpse into the wide array of new vinyl releases continues to flood record stores around the world, and all the gear that is part of the ongoing surge in vinyl culture. Rather than run down every fresh bit of wax in the marketplace, we’ll home in on special editions, reissues and unusual titles that come across our desk with an interest in discussing both the music and how it is pressed and presented. And we’ll clue you in to new developments in gear and various vinyl accessories. This month that includes a new turntable from an audio giant, new releases from a guitar strangler and a reggae icon and fresh reissues of work from indie superstars and unheralded French jazz artists.
Cambridge Audio has been a major player in the world of hi-fi audio equipment and speakers since the late ’60s, so it should come as little surprise that their foray into the world of turntables is an unmitigated success. The recent release of the company’s Alva series of record players has been a cause for celebration among vinyl enthusiasts and audiophiles for their ease of set up, sleek design and razor sharp sound quality. I was recently sent a test model of their Alva ST Belt Drive Turntable and was blown away by the whole experience. It took me no time at all to set up and install it with my stereo. And I immediately put it through the wringer, trying out different types of music and records of varying condition and pressing. I even used it to sample all the records reviewed in this month’s column. The sound was startling every time. It brought out the nuances of familiar albums like Yes’ Fragile and Kraftwerk’s Computer World and easily handled the deep bass and dynamic range of the new records discussed below. The engineers at CA have also taken into consideration the needs of both seasoned listeners and new vinyl collectors. Each turntable comes with a built-in preamp that will allow it to work with any stereo system, and it has Bluetooth capability for external speakers and headphones. Though the cost sits a little higher than a number of other players on the market (the Alva belt drive retails at $999), the extra expense is absolutely worth it whether you’re a first time turntable buyer or a long time record collector.
As the used vinyl market continues to grow and labels continue to entice buyers with colored wax, the need for a solution to fix warped records is going to be essential to keep a record collection in tip-top shape. It’s a growing market that the folks behind Record Pi are looking to capture with the recent unveiling of their new flattening system. It’s an impressively designed and engineered set up. You place your warped record underneath a nearly 17 lb steel plate (protected by felt discs), zip it up inside an insulated bag akin to those used for pizza delivery and let the external controls heat it all to the optimum temperature. An hour or more later and the record should be flat enough to play without problems. That’s the goal anyway. When I tried it out on a couple of records — one with a major dish warp; the other with a minor issue — I couldn’t get them to flatten out, even after multiple hours cooking away. But I haven’t given up on it. Record Pi has many satisfied customers and video evidence of records getting rescued from the landfill thanks to this device. There’s obviously something here and I’m ready to be a believer.
Regina Spektor’s debut album 11:11 was originally a self-released affair, only available to purchase on CD at her performances around New York and later only as a download. To celebrate its 20th birthday, the record has been remastered by Eric Helmuth and given its first vinyl pressing as either a standalone LP or in a limited boxed set that includes a second disc of live recordings of Spektor made by her father. There’s much to celebrate in this artist’s discography, but this era produced some of my favorite of her music as she found her way within the torch song tradition of jazz, bringing with her an avant-garde aesthetic and a deep appreciation for what indie rock had to offer. The clash of approaches makes for some devilishly entertaining material like the twisty “Back of a Truck” and the funky insta-classic “Pavlov’s Daughter.”
Initially joining forces to serve as the backing band for DJ Greyboy’s live appearances, the San Diego musicians that now serve as the Greyboy Allstars quickly understood how rare it is to find such easy and adaptable chemistry with a group of fellow players and became their own separate entity. Since then, they maintained a fairly steady pace of output on the stage and in the studio, including this album, originally released in 1997 and remastered / reissued to celebrate its 25th anniversary. What comes across even now is not only the depth of knowledge that these men (including saxophonist Karl Denson and guitarist Mike Andrews) have regarding classic soul, funk and R&B, but also how patient they are as players. The grooves linger for a while to allow room for extended solos and to let the listener sink more fully into the rhythm and spirit of each track. Splurge for the Immortal Edition, which includes a great bonus track (“Cassiopeia’s Chair”), a nice poster and some nicely-mastered colored vinyl.
U.K. psych group Tintern Abbey only managed to get one official release out during their short lifespan, the “Beeside” / “Vacuum Cleaner” single, originally issued in 1967. But there were enough recordings in the group’s archives — and enough interest from fans and collectors who have paid over $1,500 for an original copy of the 45 — to justify the creation of the compilation Beeside: An Anthology. The first version came out last year on CD and its 36 tracks have been pared down to 24 to fit on this double LP set. No matter how many you get, these songs are crystalline examples of the post-Rubber Soul spirit of British music as groups attempted to enhance the psychedelic experience or approximate it sonically for more straitlaced listeners. Tintern Abbey achieved that sound perfectly. The various demos and stray studio tracks included here find the group reaching for the cosmos via an acid rock guitar solo on “Bodmin Blow,” setting a go-go beat aflame on “Do What You Must,” presaging the nasty tone of Hawkwind on the vicious “My House” and getting far gone and out on the mind-melting “Snowman.”
The British jazz community has been responsible for some of the funkiest and the most forward-thinking sounds around, which is why some of the best players from that scene have been making multiple pilgrimages to the U.S. to blow the minds of folks across the pond. That was the hope in 2021 when a group of musicians set up at Abbey Road Studios to film some performances that would screen at SXSW. This LP plucks six songs from those sets to represent the finest players from the U.K., including saxophonist Camilla George, tuba wizard Theon Cross, the brilliant group Noya Rao and many many more. Picking favorites from amid this set feels impossible, but my needle keeps dropping on the skittering psychedelic jam that’s led by drummer Richard Spaven, the soulful Noya Rao cut that highlights the misty vocals of Olivia Bhattacharjee and the sprawling “These Days,” a track that lets tenor saxophonist Binker Golding cut loose for an extended solo.
This greatest hits compilation for the seminal glam pop group Roxy Music is sequenced in a curious, reverse chronological fashion. The double LP set kicks off with the title track to the group’s final album Avalon and works backwards through the discography before ending with the still earth-shaking “Re-make / Re-model,” which kicked off the band’s 1972 self-titled debut album. Perverse as it is, it also serves as a litmus test for what era Roxy fans most heavily lean toward. Love the middle period when they were shedding the angular rhythms and modular synth squawks and heading more toward a lush pop sound? Head to side two where “Dance Away” and “Same Old Scene” reside. Just go for the early, funny stuff? Side four is your best bet as it features classics like “Pyjamarama” and “Street Life.” Whatever the sequence of tracks, there’s not a duff tune on this collection and they sound better than ever thanks to the mastering work of Miles Showell.
Reissue giant Real Gone Music is drilling deeper down into the world of glam metal this month with the re-release of two records that got snowed over by success of groups like Ratt and Poison and the rise of grunge and alt-rock in the ’90s. The latter shift in popular music was the undoing of Bite Down Hard, the fourth full-length by Philly quartet Britny Fox. It had all the right elements in place for success: a strong new vocalist in Tommy Paris, guest appearances from Zakk Wylde and Poison drummer Rikki Rockett and some strong fist-pumping tunes preaching the gospel of sex, power and rock music. Unfortunately for them, metal was on the wane and almost completely forgotten about six months later when Nevermind stormed its way up the charts. Louisiana quintet Baton Rouge did what was asked of them as they aimed for the big time, changing their name to reflect their home state and moving guitarist Kelly Keeling into the front man role to make use of his Sammy Hagar-like growl. Somehow, though, their 1990 debut Shake Your Soul only managed to scrape the bottom of the Billboard charts in spite of the group’s hooky, anthemic songs that were the equal of their contemporaries. This may be the perfect time to reassess both of these albums and give them their due as the critical consensus begins to shift regarding this subset of heavy rock. And these well-mastered and carefully pressed reissues could well light that fuse.
If you’re a regular reader of this column, you won’t be remotely surprised that I’ve got a lot of affection for Brisbane rockers the Valery Trails. The three men in the group are musical lifers that, even as they are (I’m assuming from the band photos) pushing 50, have to get their frazzled garage pop out into the world at all costs. They release their music without the help of a label and do short tours around Australia — all for the love of the game. This chosen path would be Sisyphyean for any other group, but the Trails have the talent to back it up. Their new album finds that carefully carved out niche where the jangle of their fellow Aussies the Go-Betweens is married to the loud psychedelicized attack of a great late ’80s power trio. There’s passion and purpose in these songs that should be celebrated and analyzed by younger musicians. Do your homework, kids, and give this a spin.
Horace Andy’s work with trip-hop ensemble Massive Attack helped the reggae singer crack a new audience and has kept him plenty busy with other collaborations and other fans arriving from the shadows in hopes of working with him. Among them is Adrian Sherwood, the producer and artist behind groups like Tackhead and African Head Charge and the record label On-U Sound. Sherwood takes the reins of this new album, calling on a trusted core of collaborators (Doug Wimbush, Prisoner, Skip McDonald and Dr. Pablo, among them) to provide the shadowy backdrop for Andy’s distinctive voice. Sherwood generally sticks to a synth-heavy sound that calls up memories of ’80s classics from Burning Spear but jumps into a dubby mode throughout and even helps cook up a sizzling cover of Massive Attack’s “Safe From Harm.” Andy stays steady and tuneful no matter what gets thrown at him, sounding much younger and more spry than his age (71) would suggest.
Death metal supergroup Bloodbath has undergone several transformations during their 25+ years of activity, the biggest of which being the departure / reappearance / departure of original vocalist Mikael Åkerfeldt. The latest incarnation finds the group making a major upgrade with the arrival of Lik guitarist Tomas Åkvik into the fold. He brings the right dash of ripping intensity to Bloodbath’s sixth studio album, and an instrumental prowess that sounds like it challenged longstanding member Anders Nyström to step up his game even more. Listening to those two tangle is half the fun of listening to this album. The other half is taken up with trying to keep one’s gag reflex in check while scanning the lyric sheet (“Knife and scalpel / running through a thousand sores,” singer Nick Holmes spits out on “Carved”) and to keep one’s balance as the quintet assaults you from all sides.
For the uninitiated, Duet Emmo is a collaboration between Graham Lewis and Bruce Gilbert of Wire — who had been recording as a duo under the name Dome — and Daniel Miller, the man behind The Normal and founder of Mute Records. (The project name is an amalgam of Dome and Mute.) The trio got together in late 1982 to experiment in the studio, leading to a single full-length that explores and explodes their interests in electronic music, drone and art pop. The album seems to be slowly dissolving as it moves forward with the proto-industrial pieces on side A giving way to quietly unsettling instrumentals on the flip. It all sounds even more mind altering on this vinyl edition thanks to the remastering work of Stefan Betke (aka Pole) and includes, on one side of a second disc, a remix of the album’s title track (originally released as a b-side) that takes the original song to fresher, druggier zones.
Verve’s always eye-opening Acoustic Sounds series of reissues has once again brought back to living, breathing life a pair of vintage jazz albums from the genre’s golden era. And this time around, they’ve landed on two records featuring the sprightly, soulful piano playing of Oscar Peterson. On Ella and Louis, Peterson and his trio (Herb Ellis on guitar and Ray Brown on bass) and drummer Buddy Rich serve as the backing band for the first ever recorded meeting of two established greats: Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. Those two were really the perfect foils for one another with his gravelly, peppery voice serving as the perfect counterpoint to her salty, bouncy tones. All the musicians keep this set of standards to a nice, moderate tempo, with just a touch of swing to keep things interesting. The same mood prevailed when Peterson, Brown and drummer Ed Thigpen recorded their last Verve session in 1964. As the title spells out, these are songs that the trio were most often asked to play during their many residencies and gigs. As such they slip into favorites like “Corcovado” and “The Days of Wine and Roses” with a comfort that allows each player to have fun with these familiar melodies and turn their solos into virtuosic fireworks displays. The remastering job by Ryan Smith on each one is, as ever, dynamite, but as I sit here listening to the trio sashay through “The Girl From Ipanema,” I’m struck by how present each instrument is. Even at a pleasant shuffle, Thigpen’s drumming rips through the speakers and pulls me even deeper into these spectacular performances.
Chicago quintet Dendrons traffic in the kind of heady guitar pop that, to music heads of a certain age, will draw up memories of Track Star, Thinking Fellers Union Local 242 and Swirlies. Think knotted up chords and leads that signal an interest in both psychedelia and the avant garde, rhythms that meander happily and vocals that are equal parts harried and narcotized. The group’s thicket-like new album came out of extended writing and rehearsal sessions that they undertook when the pandemic scuttled plans for a European tour. Out of that creative wellspring came this tangle of songs into which the band audibly poured all of their ambitions and talents and influences. That they found time to come up with something as direct and catchy as album closer “True” feels close to miraculous and provides the perfect soft landing after 30+ minutes of lava-thick waves of sound and melody.
Knowing the pedigree of two of the musicians that make up the trio known as Heavy Gus (Ryan Dobrowski plays drums in Blind Pilot; multi-instrumentalist Stelth Ulvang is a member of the Lumineers) should get you most of the way to know what to expect out of this debut album. It’s moody, Americana-flecked indie pop, recorded to absolute perfection at a studio in Nashville. But what you might not be prepared for are the contributions of musician Dorota Szuta. She sends every song reeling into the upper atmosphere courtesy of her lustrous vocals and the addition of guitar and violin that provides the right spark to these otherwise earthbound tunes.
The vinyl version of Blood Moon, the new album from Australian artist Ry X, was wisely cut at 45 RPM, a decision that helped stretch these songs out to their proper cinematic expanse and to give the sizable bass tones within each one room to really sock the listener in the kidneys. And while you’re on the ground, gasping for air, Ry X will be there to serenade you with his languid vocals and songs that serve to take stock of his emotional temperature. He runs pretty hot and cold throughout as he seeks out the perfect partner, the perfect moment and the perfect melody. The last of those seem to come very easy to him, and he enmeshes them in chocolatey electro-pop productions that emphasize the human hands at the controls. He wants you to feel what he feels, be it soft and sweet or bitter and jagged. That’s the way love goes.
Bill Orcutt tends to use his guitar as an instrument of controlled chaos as he thrashes against the thunder of Chris Corsano’s drumming or yanks wild improvisations out of the strings and body. For his latest album Music For Four Guitars, the Bay Area musician is simply controlled. Since 2015, he’s been quietly cooking up a suite of songs for four guitarists that features melodies and countermelodies cohering and splitting apart like a digital film loop that switches from pixelated and fuzzy to crystal clear. Rather than wait for the right players, Orcutt recorded all four parts himself, using his computer to help stitch and mold these works into the tight weaves that make up propulsive pieces like “At a distance” or “Out of the corner of the eye,” which pulsates with the spirit of a rambling early Television song, but free of all the pretension and boho mumbo-jumbo.
Spiritmuse, one of the finest jazz labels going right now, has outdone itself with this latest release. The two folks behind the imprint, Mark Gallagher and Thea Ioannou, joined up with collector Tom Val to put together an expanded collection of rare jazz-leaning sounds from the French music community of the ’70s and ’80s. I would be entirely surprised if any of the names on this double LP set were familiar to you, as they were all new to me. But after one listen to the entrancing percussion and sax workout from duo Noco Music or the astounding Catherine Derain slip from a cooing sprechgesang to a Meredith Monk-like wail and beyond or the pealing folk-prog of Pan-Ra, I was tearing through Discogs and adding to an already long list of records to buy as soon as I can find them.