Crate Digging: June 2024

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Crate Digging June 2024

The challenge of trying to cover as much music as possible is grappling with the inevitability that so much of it will pass you by long before you realize it. And the more music we write about at Treble, the more we realize just how much music there is that resonates with us and moves us beyond what fits into the usual press cycle. We’re always discovering music that we missed a year or two ago, maybe a decade, often well before we were born, waiting to be heard with fresh ears. So we came up with a solution, or perhaps just an indulgence.

We introduce: Crate Digging. Intended to be a monthly recurring column full of new-to-us discoveries, we aim to replicate the fun of combing through stacks of records and finding those hidden gems that previously slipped through our grasp. We imposed a couple rules: 1. These aren’t new new albums (i.e. at least a year old); 2. They aren’t records we’ve written about at length before; and 3. They’re deeper cuts in general. On that last point, you’ll find a few albums from some familiar names here, but by no means the albums that made them famous. But there are also lesser known artists, obscurities, curiosities, lesser known side projects and more. Let’s start digging!

Also, as a sort of companion piece to this new feature, we’re posting Now Playling playlists on our Patreon, with commentary, of all the random odds and ends that are spinning on our speakers and headphones in between the new releases.

Note: When you buy something through our affiliate links, Treble receives a commission. All albums we cover are chosen by our editors and contributors.

A Certain Ratio - Sextet

A Certain Ratio – Sextet

I have famously been taught again and again to simply listen to our fearless leader Jeff when he recommends records; despite our opposing middle periods in the arc of our journeys into music, we seem to have arced directly at one another, more or less. So when I told him I’d finally checked out A Certain Ratio, he wisely told me I could have done so a good while back if I’d heeded the feature he wrote on the band. Alas. I was cautioned to start with To Each, a brilliant communism-referencing record, but it is here on Sextet that I find my mouth watering most. The sound palette is a darker and more venomous art-funk as explored by Talking Heads on Remain in Light and David Byrne on both My Life in the Bush of Ghosts and his The Catherine Wheel score. Here, it plays out like ECM meets Bill Laswell in hell, the same evil menace that laps at the legs when listening to mid ’70s Miles Davis live albums. It’s brilliant and, like so much great music, challenges where precisely the line between punk and prog, rock and jazz, really are. – Langdon Hickman

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Rough Trade (vinyl)

crate digging - cleaners from venus
Captured Tracks

Cleaners From Venus – Midnight Cleaners/On Any Normal Monday

Cleaners From Venus are the sort of band I should have known I would love more than a decade ago, back when Captured Tracks first began to reissue titles in their four-decade-long catalog, but somehow allowed to slip under my radar. Or at least a few years later when several friends of mine sung their praises, though the thing about beloved cult bands is that their audience grows gradually over time, passed form listener to listener like a well-kept secret rather than through expensive marketing campaigns. Well, now I’m in on the secret, and I find myself utterly charmed to pieces by the scrappy, lo-fi jangle pop and post-punk from songwriter Martin Newell.

Both released in 1982, Midnight Cleaners and On Any Normal Monday are natural entry points into the project’s more than two-dozen full-length releases and handful of EPs. Both are rife with fuzzy, tuneful pop gems that balance bright hooks with a kind of artful post-punk gloom—the former even labels its two sides as “Pop Side” and “Art Side.” But they’re distinctive nonetheless, On Any Normal Monday more steeped in dubby atmospheres while Midnight Cleaners hovers between early ’80s power pop and the gothic shimmer of For Against, but with an endearing, analog hum. Both are fantastic, and the beauty of a project with this much to dive into is you can just keep on going from there. – Jeff Terich

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Turntable Lab (vinyl)

Dome 1
Editions Mego

Dome – 1-4

Special offer! Four albums for the price of one! Wire, strangely enough, was a group I put off for almost two decades, presuming they were so far on the punk end that they wouldn’t appeal to me. How wrong I was. Dome, a side project founded by two members of Wire in the late ’80s during their lengthy hiatus, takes the increasing experimental and droning direction of 154 even further. The reason for writing about all four at once is apparent when you listen to all roughly two hours of music; the approach on these albums is largely the same, ultra-abstract post-punk, krautrock and even flecks of prog and psych, but also just as much sound collage, found sound and musique concrète. When Wire reunited, they famously felt suddenly ultra-advanced, like the decades had passed with secret records no one had heard as they honed and refined their prog/punk arthouse sound. These four albums are an important part of that story. – Langdon Hickman

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Rough Trade (vinyl)

crate digging - Richard Hell
Red Star/Omnivore

Richard Hell and the Voidoids – Destiny Street

Richard Hell and the Voidoid’s Blank Generation is a microcosm of the early days of New York’s punk scene. It’s brash and fast, with an attitude—actually, scratch that, it doesn’t care enough to do any posturing. By the time Hell followed up with Destiny Street in 1982, punk’s first wave had hit its peak. Interests started to shift toward new wave, leaving the album to fade into near obscurity. The record’s less energetic than its predecessor. Hell trades the bouncing-off-the-walls nihilism for intricate lyricism and a more mature sound. He’s in less of a rush to get his words out, opting to muse on the ridiculousness of living for the past/present and using nightlife as a refuge from reality. “Only time can write a song that’s really, really real /the most a man can do is say the way its playing feels /and know he only knows as much as time to him reveals,” he glumly observes on “Time.” Most of the original Voidoids are gone, but Robert Quine stays to offer some of his best guitar playing on this record. His solo on “Downtown at Dawn” is precisely sharp, leaving me to hang onto every note. An overlooked classic. – Mia Euceda

Listen/Buy: Spotify | Rough Trade

Far Out

Marcos Resende & Index – Marcos Resende & Index

Brazilian jazz bandleader and keyboardist Marcos Resende released his debut album with ensemble Index, Festa para um novo rei, in 1978, which has since become a sought-after item for aficionados of rare grooves. Yet while that impossibly funky set of melody-forward compositions leaned a bit closer toward the mainstream, the group recorded a jazz fusion odyssey for the heads a few years prior to that, which was never released in its time due to Resende’s feeling that interested record companies were undervaluing the effort and as such, passed on every offer.

Nearly 45 years later, that shelved debut album received long-overdue release via Far Out, its compulsive rhythms and rich, keyboard-driven arrangements finally given the chance to be heard. Like much of the rare items from Brazil’s vaults that see release via Far Out, Marcos Resende & Index is nothing short of spectacular, pairing rubbery basslines and Herbie Hancock-style headhunting via ample layers of synth and Rhodes into a hypnotic, undeniable funkfest. It’s warmly inviting funk-fusion whose distinctive if slight mid-’70s patina nonetheless can’t mute its vibrant palette. – Jeff Terich

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp

Crate Digging - Jorge Lopez Ruiz

Jorge Lopéz Ruiz – Bronca Buenos Aires

Every oldhead record collector has a story about how the beauty of vinyl is being able to pick up a record at a shop having only seen the cover art and bringing it home, completely unaware of just what kind of sounds await you when you get home. I don’t know how often that really happened, but even in the digital age I find myself listening to plenty of albums based on nothing more than how cool the cover art looks (and very often, as in this case, buying them on vinyl afterwards). The cover of Jorge Lopéz Ruiz’s Bronca Buenos Aires is grainy and mysterious, with a figure, perhaps Ruiz himself, in the middle of some action—throwing an object, perhaps, with shady clouds of obscurity surrounding him.

It’s a cool cover, and an even cooler album. An Argentinian jazz bandleader whose work also includes the late ’70s group Viejas Raices (also worth the dig), Ruiz specialized in a kind of moving-target jazz fusion that often saw various elements intertwining in unexpected ways. In this case, Ruiz and his ensemble connect threads of cinematic action-thriller jazz funk with free-jazz eruptions and bits of spoken word that presented a daring if poetically veiled critique of the dictatorship in the country in the early ’70s. It proved too controversial for radio and live performances (and some issues omitted the libretto, which was restored with new liner notes and translation on Altercat’s 2022 reissue), but the spirit and sound of the record remains both thrilling and poignant, as fun and eclectic as it is powerful. – Jeff Terich

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon (vinyl)

Crate Digging - Ibrahim Khalil Shihab Quintet spring

The Ibrahim Khalil Shihab Quintet – Spring

Exploring the depths of South Africa’s jazz scene is a boundless exercise. Contemporary artists seem to emerge every day, continuing the country’s deep jazz tradition, pushing it in fresh directions. And alongside that modern output, there is an astonishing wealth of music that sits in the vaults of defunct record labels, awaiting rediscovery. Various jazz aficionados have dedicated themselves to that mission, documenting this underrepresented, oft-forgotten corner of the jazz world.

Matsuli Music, an inexhaustible goldmine of a record label, corrected an egregious cultural injustice in reissuing Ibrahim Khalil Shihab’s 1969 record, Spring. Pressed only once before being destroyed by an executive, Spring initially only survived in the public consciousness through its inclusion as an add-on to a 1996 CD release of Winston “Mankunku” Ngozi’s seminal Yakhal’ Inkomo. Matsuli Music’s 2020 reissue reaffirmed its status as a beautiful album in its own right, deserving of its own celebration.

It’s Mankunku’s presence on Spring, as well as his penning of four of the five tracks, that will attract fans of the tenorist, but Shihab (then known as Chris Schilder) and his band deserve enormous credit too. These are young players, all in their early-to-mid twenties, recording music that drew as much from South Africa’s own tradition as it did from the various iconic artists shaping American jazz in the ’60s. Among the countless hidden gems of South African jazz, Spring is a serene, soulful highlight. – Noah Sparkes

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp

crate digging - simple minds

Simple Minds – Sons and Fascination/Sister Feelings Call

My discovery of the early period of Simple Minds was a roughly analog to my initial discovery of progressive rock, when a member of a forum I was on told me to check out Yes and Genesis, who at the time I’d only known for pop songs that I felt strongly at the time fucking sucked. Here, admittedly, my sentiment toward their big pop hit is much warmer, having had, like many of my ilk, my John Hughes period. Still, learning that once upon a time they’d been something far closer to Neu! or Cluster than U2 was a thrilling proposition, as the muted prog/punk/jazz hybridization of that world increasingly calls to me as I age (not that it didn’t before, to be clear!). This is a double record, originally conceived as two conjoined albums that were eventually released as a single package, and the results are droning and often near-featureless. For the krautrock fan, these are mouthwatering words; it feels like the silencing dread of urban life, the cessation of the human, visions of fascism as emergent from the anxieties of the city used in its enormity to silence the human soul. (Yes, I grew up in a rural area.) Thank god for learning about secret histories. – Langdon Hickman

Listen: Spotify

Son Rompe Pera - Chimborazo

Son Rompe Pera – Chimborazo

Punk’s not dead, it just plays the marimba now. The instrument, seldom used outside folk tradition, is what fuels the chaotic cumbia of Mexican quintet Son Rompe Pera. Since its departure from Colombia, most of Latin America has experimented with the genre in some way (taking cues from genres like techno and psych rock, for instance), but nothing in its canon compares to Son Rompe Pera’s revolutionary rhythms. Brothers Mongo and Gacho, rightfully self-dubbed as the “monsters of the marimba,” play with a maddening, head-spinning fervor that’s deftly mesmerizing. It’s easy to fixate on the group’s punk influence, but they easily show they’re not interested in upholding a gimmick throughout Chimborazo.

Aside from the frantic breakdowns and unique instrumentation, the band honors the genre’s foundations and embraces its evolution on “Cumbia pa tu Madre.” The joyful chimes and lyrics acknowledge cumbia’s African roots—some speculate the minimal footwork in cumbia dancing stems from the limited mobility of shackled enslaved people (what’s more punk than resisting oppression?). It incorporates traditional polyrhythm sections and hallucinogenic guitars reminiscent of Peruvian chicha, making for a faithful love letter to the genre’s multifaceted multiculturalism. I didn’t know it was possible to shred on a marimba before coming across this band, and now I feel the need to scream from the tallest building and tell everyone about this record. – Mia Euceda

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp

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