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[CANCELLED: November 24, 2020] Squarepusher

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Squarepusher is an electronic musician (Tom Jenkinson) who has been making weird glitchy electronic noise beats since the mid 90s.

I have an LP and an EP.  I really haven’t listened to him in a very long time.  In fact, I didn’t even know he was still doing stuff.  But his new stuff seems to be just as weird and glitchy and cool as his earlier stuff.

He hasn’t toured the States in five years and hasn’t been to Philly in eight years.

His North American tour was originally in April and was basically Boston and New York on the East Coast.  He rescheduled his shows and added Philly to the tour.  I asked my friend who introduced me to them so long ago if he would consider going.  He said he was never that big a fan and that the man is full of himself.  Not a ringing endorsement.

Since I’ve never been to a show like this–noise and glitchy “dance” music, I would be interested to see what it’s like.  It might also have been a fun first show to return to, although it was officially cancelled.

I do hope he decides to come back in 2021.ca

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[POSTPONED: November 22, 2020] Bikini Kill / Alice Bag [rescheduled from May 13; moved to October 2, 2021]

indexBoy, a band reunites and plans a national tour and then everything blows up on them.  I thought surely this show would go on as planned–a bigger venue, possible social distancing. But how do you enforce social distancing at a rock show?  I sure hope we can go to live music again.

When Bikini Kill did their short reunion tour a couple years ago, tickets sold out in like ten seconds.  When they announced this follow up tour I grabbed a ticket immediately.  As far as I can tell it still hadn’t sold out when it was postponed (which is a surprise, I think).

Bikini Kill are foundation for the Riot Grrl movement although I was not a huge fan of them per se.  I have their records appreciate them for what they did, but they weren’t my favorite,

Nevertheless, this opportunity to see them live sounded like a great time.

Alice Bag has been cropping up in my periphery for quite some time although I realized I didn’t know much about her.  Alicia Armendariz was a co-founder and singer of the 70s punk band The Bags.  After they broke up, she was in about a half dozen other bands, although none of them released more than some singles.  She finally put out a solo album in 2016.

Her album(s) since have gotten strong reviews and it would be excellent to see this feminist icon in action.

SOUNDTRACK: THE HU-The Gereg (2019).

The HU were something of a novelty when they released this album.  A band from Mongolia!  Playing weird instruments!  Throat singing!

But they really proved themselves.  They toured the U.S. (and were great live), they’ve even had some famous-ish singers do some remixes).  A year later, this album really holds up.  The songs are simple, mostly relying on rhythm, but the melodies of the choruses really grab you.

Most of the songs revel in the low end–deep vocals, throat singing, and lots of drums and bass.  The first song “The Gereg” (Гэрэг “Home”) sets the example.  There’s pumping drums and chanting–perfect for a live event.  They also have some soaring solos from their Mongolian instruments, the Ayanga Morin Khuur and the Baigali Tovshuur.  There’s also prominent use of the Tumur Khuur (the jaw harp).  But its the chorus melody that is so wonderfully catchy.

“Wolf Totem” (Чонон сүлд) is really catchy.  It starts with some call and response singing and then a simple but gripping riff–like a slow heavy metal song.  When the band starts chanting “Hu Hu Hu” you can imagine the fists raised along.

“The Great Chinggis Khan” (Их Чингис Хаан) is a slower song with an epic feel. The vocals are quieter in the beginning, but the song slow builds.  There’s a lot more instrumentation and different types of throat singing by thened.

“The Legend of Mother Swan” (Хун ээжийн домогnext) has a fantastic groove as the song moves almost relentlessly forward, growing in intensity as the melody slowly goes up the scale.  The vocal melody is really enticing.  It’s like the Mongolian “Kashmir.”

“Shoog Shoog” (Шөөг шөөг) opens with the Tsuur, a traditional flute, and chants of “Shoog Shoog.”  But when the bass comes in with a very cool riff, the song becomes something else entirely, a kind of metal song.  When you add in the chorus (which is catchy and intense) it sounds fantastic.  It’s easy to sing along to and is a great love song.

“The Same” (Агаар нэгэн буй “Whisper Whisper”) is a slower song, built around a dramatic melody and vocal line.  With lots of high soaring solos.  But once again, it’s the propulsive rhythm that is the real hook.

“Yuve Yuve Yu” (Юу вэ юу вэ юу? “What is What?”) is a wonderful propulsive song.  The vocal melody is fantastic (the way it ends with the title which is fun to say even if you didn’t know what it means) is a terrific hook and the chorus is also lots of fun.  There’s even a sort of “oooh” singalong but it sounds different from any one I’ve heard in a Western song.

“Shireg Shireg” (Ширэг ширэг) sounds very different from the others–lighter and more ubeat.  There’s some gorgeous tsuur throughout the song and the vocal melody feels inviting.  It shows another side to the band and is really a nice addition.  The returning flute melody is very catchy.

“Song of Women” (Бүсгйн дуун) is the final song.  It’s another epic, this time seven minutes long.  It builds slowly.  Musically this song is nice and full and has some really pretty vocal harmonies.

This album is really terrific, with not a bad song in the bunch.  I really hope they can come back to the States when they tour again.

[READ: November 18, 2020] “Too Skinny”

Marv Bertel was a successful man in an unhappy marriage.  He was also very heavy and had been for most of his life.

So he started losing weight (he makes it seem very easy, too).  And when he reached his goal weight, he divorced his wife and tried to start a new life.

He went to bars, he met women, he appreciated being admired.  But he also had resentments from when he was heavy and these same women wouldnt look at him.

So he never did anything with them.  He accepted the the flirtations.  He lied about himself (a different lie for each person) and he started to feel strange.  Guilty that he could lie so easily, but also strangely powerful.

So I never saw where this was going.  Continue Reading »

SOUNDTRACK: MATT BERRY-Music for Insomniacs (2014).

Matt Berry is a renaissance man and I love everything he does.  Whether it’s acting in over the top comedies or making over the top prog rock, Berry is my guy.  He has several albums out already.  This one was his fifth. Evidently he created this album in the middle of the night while unable to sleep.

The back cover image is of him sitting amid a Rick Wakeman-like array of keyboards.  And if you’re into gear, he lists everything that he plays on this album:

Arp Odyssey Synthesiser, Korg MS-20 Synthesiser, Korg MS-20008 Synthesiser & Vocoder, Korg Sigma Synthesiser, Korg Polyphonic Ensemble, Korg SV1 Electric Piano, Minimoog Synthesiser, Mellotron-Pro, Solina String Ensemble, Roland Jupiter 4m Synthesiser, Roland Pro Mars Synthesiser, Roland juno 6 Synthesiser, Roland Gaia Synthesiser, Roland Jupiter 80 Synthesiser, Yamaha CS-15 Synthesiser, Yamaha CS-60 Synthesiser, Hammond XKB Organ, Korg & Roland rhythm boxes and found percussion.

Why would anyone need so many synthesisers?  Well, to make an album like this.

It is two 23 minute “songs.”  They are meandering, trippy sounds mashed up with snippets of “songs.”

Part 1 opens with vocals and then an organ playing a familiar-ish classical organ melody but it’s only a nod to classical music because soon enough a bass comes in and turns the music into a very different sounding piece.  I particularly love the way he phases and echoes the drums.  Variations on this song/theme run for about five minutes with more and more interesting sounding effects, until it all fades out into waves of synths.

The swirling synths create an atmosphere for another five minutes when abruptly, you hear something being turned off (or on) and a shushing.  More trippy synth washes follow and then at 13 minutes a new keyboard melody is added to the washes–a gentle tune that give the washes some momentum.  It starts building until 16 minutes when it grows distinctly dark.  Creepy echoing voices come out of the fog.  And you can hear someone shouting okay okay.  Then out of the quiet, a martial drumbeat grows louder and louder as a song starts to form.  At 19 minutes, the melody from “October Sun” from his Kill the Wolf album starts playing.  A processed voice sings the lyrics, but they are very hard to hear.  I assume it is Cecilia Fage, as she is credited with voice/choir.

Part two is not radically different.  It opens with a choir of voices.  It morphs into gentle washes of synths like mid-period Pink Floyd, complete with space sounds–whooshing and zapping.  Then comes what sounds like a horse walking by and some slightly dissonant keys before some hugely vocodered voice start singing a melody.  It’s followed by pianos at seven and a half minutes which merge with the rest of the synth melody.  There is much more going on in the background–voices, sounds, who knows what.

Things abruptly end with a big splash of water at 8:45 and remain underwater for a time before a new synth pattern emerges. Things become celestial with a choir around 13 minutes.  After a big explosion at 14 minutes, spacey chords return followed by another explosion and a return underwater–squishy sounds, then a distant bay crying (my daughter just walked in and said this music is creepy).  Other sounds swim in and out as angelic voices sing.  This goes on until 17 minutes when things settle down into a more stately organ-fueled section.  Things drift away almost to silence and then at 19, a pulsing synth bass starts things up again.  He adds a jaunty synth melody to the bass and it’s suddenly a new wave song.  This dancy part continues until the end of the song when things grind to a halt.

This is a peculiar record for sure.  It’s not soothing for sleep, nor is it particularly upbeat for non-sleep.  But it is an interesting look into Matt Berry’s headspace.

[READ: November 18, 2020] “Fata Morgana”

This is an excerpt from Koeppen’s novel Pigeons on the Grass which was translated by Michael Hofmann.

I’m not sure where in the story this comes from, but I feel like it jumps in right in the middle of a scene.

A black man, Washington Price, is walking through the streets of tenement houses (in Germany) with a bouquet of flowers: “he had marriage on his mind.”

He wasn’t particularly notable in this area, but the fact that he arrived in a blue limousine started a lot of people grumbling behind the tenement windows.

He was there to see Carla.  Carla lived on the third floor with some other girls and their minder, Frau Welz.  The other girls were there for the soldiers.  As (maybe?) was Carla.  They all knew he was there for Carla, but that didn’t stop them from trying to entice him into their room. Continue Reading »

SOUNDTRACK: GRUFF RHYS-Yr Atal Genhedlaeth (2004).

In 2004. Super Furry Animals frontman Gruff Rhys released his first solo album. The sung-entirely-in-Welsh Yr Atal Genhedlaeth.  It’s a lo-fi bedroom kind of recording.  Mostly catchy as anything, but with some typically weirdo songs as well.   Most of the songs are well under three minutes.

I’ve included some notes from Wikipedia (in italics) that offer translation advice.

The album opens with “Yr Atal Genhedlaeth” which is 8 seconds of warping looping nonsense.  In Welsh the title means ‘The Stuttering Generation,’ but ‘atalgenhedlu’ is also Welsh for a contraceptive.

“Gwn Mi Wn” is a proper song with Gruff singing over a drum pattern.  As the song moves along more looped vocals are added making the song bigger and bigger–almost trance like by the end.  Gwn Mi Wn translates as ‘I Know [that] I Know’, but could also mean ‘a gun I know’, a reference to the battle in the song.

“Epynt” is a 2 minute rocking raw song of guitar and synth and some shouted lyrics.  It’s oddly catchy.  The song is named after a mountain in Mid Wales, but is about money, with the ‘E’ standing for the Euro, and ‘pynt’ sounding similar to the Welsh word for Pound.

“Rhagluniaeth Ysgafn” is a slower, more electronic-sounding song (from the drums and sound effects).  Although guitars do move the song along.  There’s a kind of scream/laugh effect that’s played here and it gets repeated on other songs.  It translated as ‘Light programming’, but ‘lluniaeth ysgafn’ means a light snack.  This is also a catchy song that is a total sing along, if you know Welsh.

“Pwdin Ŵy” literally means ‘egg pudding’, or “egg custard’, two love songs.  “Pwdin Ŵy 1″ is a swinging song that features some nice layered vocals.  It’s upbeat and dancy.  “Pwdin Ŵy 2” is very different–it’s a mellow guitar song with a harmonica solo.

“Y Gwybodusion” (‘The Experts’) is a garage rock song with a cheesy synth solo.  The addition of a (cool) bass line half way through really fleshes the song out.

“Caerffosiaeth” is literally ‘sewage fortress’. ‘Caer’ is a common part of Welsh place-names used to indicate that there was a castle in the town.  It’s an all drum-machine rap full of sound effects.  As with all of the other songs he manages to make it really catchy by the end.

“Ambell Waith” (‘Sometimes‘) is a quiet folk song with interesting sound effects floating around.  The slight echo on everything makes it feel very full.  And the trumpet (!) solo comes as quite a surprise.

The final two songs are much longer than anything else on the disc.

“Ni Yw Y Byd” means ‘We Are The World,‘ but is not a cover.  It’s upbeat, four minutes long and feels fuller than the others.  It reminds me a bit of the melody of “The Gambler” and is therefore crazy catchy.  It’s even easy to singalong to even if you don;t know Welsh.  There’s a clapalong section followed by a flute solo.

“Chwarae’n Troi’n Chwerw” means ‘When Play Turns Bitter’ and comes from a Welsh proverb.  this song is a Welsh language standard originally written and sung by Caryl Parry-Jones.  It’s got a quiet electric guitar playing some lead riffs as he sings in a deeper register.  It ends with 30 seconds of quiet banjo playing.

This is a true solo record from Rhys–snippets, excerpts and home recordings.  It’s a quiet treat.

[READ: November 17, 2020] “New Poets”

When I started reading this story I was afraid that it was going to be one of those grimy violent stories that doesn’t exactly glorify bad behavior, but kind of revels in it.

The narrator, Monk, is recently sober, but he has had a string of bad luck and has moved in with an old college buddy named Dogman.  Dogman has not stopped drinking.  Indeed, he drinks a lot.  Which is odd because Dogman is an accountant in the Philadelphia office of one of the country’s largest banks.  It’s a boring job, so the weekend is for drinking.

They are in a pub (it’s the middle of the day) and Dogman tells Monk that a surprise guest is coming.  The guest is Sudimack.  Monk is really not happy about that. Continue Reading »

SOUNDTRACK: NADA SURF–North 6th Street (1999).

In 1999, Nada Surf released this collection of songs.

It was named after the street in Brooklyn where we first got together. It has our first singles, some 8-track demos we made in our practice space, some alternate versions, french versions, a couple of unreleased songs and a cover.

Collections like this can be hit or miss, especially when a band had progressed from their original sound.  But there’s nothing embarrassing about this collection at all.  In fact, there’s a lot of really charming stuff on here.

The first two songs, “The Plan” and “Deeper Well” are labelled as 7″ Version.  I don’t really know what that means.  Both songs appear on High/Low.  “The Plan” is a little shorter than the record and “Deeper Well” is a little longer.  They sound similar, although there’s a different drummer, Aaron Conte.  But they both sound really good and are a nice reminder that Nada Surf can really rock out.

The next three songs are demos of songs from High/Low: “Ice Box,” “Psychic Caramel,” and “Popular.”  These also have their first drummer.  These aren’t boombox recordings.  They sound well produced, although they do feel a little more grungy than the album.  “Popular” sounds the most different.  There’s female vocals in the beginning.  The tone of this version seems a bit angrier, but otherwise similar.

The next two songs are French versions of songs from High/Low.  Matthew Caws and Daniel Lorca met at a French school in New York, so their French is quite good.  It’s weird, but cool to hear familiar songs sung in a different language by the same vocalist.  These songs, like the whole High/Low album were produced by Rik Ocasek, so I’m assuming they were done a the same time.

“Traffic” and “Me and You” are (I believe) previously unreleased.  “Traffic” is a quiet instrumental propelled by Daniel’s bass and some gentle pretty guitar picking.  The ambient noise of an ambulance is a nice touch.  “Me & You” is a full-on folk song–acoustic guitars and possibly a suitcase for drums.  Each of these songs is 1:47 long–snippets into bits of songs.

“Silent Fighting” and “Spooky” are alternate versions of songs that appeared on the band’s reissue of their album The Proximity Effect.  They weren’t on the original album (which was lost in record label hell for quite a long time), but they are the final songs on the version that’s largely available.  “Silent Fighting” is a demo version, but again, it sounds professionally done.  And “Spooky” is listed as an Alternate Version.

The next two songs are also unreleased elsewhere.  “The Manoeuvres” is a quiet acoustic ballad.  “Sick of You” is an Iggy Pop song!  Like the original, this song is slow and moody with a distinctly Iggy tone in the vocal delivery.  And like the original, it rocks out in th emiddle with a full on punk assault.  It runs over five minutes long

Up next are two more demos from The Proximity Effect.  “Robot” is a lot quieter.  You can hear the lyrics more clearly and the heaviness is toned down.  “Amateur” sounds pretty similar–full with a great bass sound.  Although it’s missing the wonderful “ooh ooh ooh” part.

“River Phoenix” is a rocking song with a spoken vocal line and fascinating lyrics like:

River Phoenix
Ian Curtis
And river Phoenix
And me and you

And it’s quite catchy.

“Mother’s Day” is another demo from The Proximity Effect.  This is a fantastic anti-rape song with brutal, angry lyrics.  This version sounds a little different–a little less distorted, a little less loud, but still angry.

“Dispossession” is an alternate version from The Proximity Effect.  The album’s guitars sound a bit rawer, the guitars a little crisper and the whole things feels a bit more wild.  This version is a bit cleaner, except for the wild guitar solo.

[READ: November 7, 2020] The Midnight Library

S. brought this home and really enjoyed it.  She thought I’d enjoy it too.  Of course she was right.  I’d probably enjoy most of the books she reads, but I already have my own dozen dozen authors that I like to read already.

The book opens with the fascinatingly dramatic opening sentence:

Nineteen years before she decided to die, Nora Seed sat in the warmth of a small library at Hazeldene School in the town of Bedford.

Nora is playing chess with Mrs Elm the librarian when Mrs Elm gets a call that Nora’s father has just died.

The book jumps nineteen years ahead to “twenty-seven hours before she decided to die.”  The next few chapters list the miseries of her life: her cat is hit by a car, she gets fired from her lousy job (her boss has the funniest, meanest line I’ve read: “I can’t pay you to put off customers with your face looking like a wet weekend.”) Continue Reading »

SOUNDTRACK: CONTROL TOP-Control Top (2019).

Control Top is an intense punk/new wave band from Philly.  They are a must-see live.  Ali Carter is a dynamic front person.  Al Creedon’s guitar is a blast to see live and Alex Lichtenauer’s drums are even better when you can feel them.

This is their debut album.  A couple of songs run over 3 minutes, but most are in the two and a half minute range (the album is ten songs in 29 minutes).  While the music is mostly hardcore-ish, they have a very cool early new wave sound–robotic and precise.  There’s angular rhythms and interesting juxtapositions all underneath carter’s (mostly) screamed vocals.

“Type A” sets the mold with screamed vocals, interesting lead riffs and heavy chords.  Creedon makes all kinds of interesting walls of noise which never detract from the melody of the song itself.  “Office Rage” has thundering drums and a cool change of guitar sounds midway through the song.  not to mention when Carter sings “service with a smile,” the band pauses and she shouts “eat shit.”  How they manage to squeeze a guitar solo into this 3 minute song is beyond me.

“Chain Reaction” has jagged guitar chords and a robotic vocal delivery.  I love the way Carter’s bass holds down the melody while the guitar is just playing a wall of noise.  “Unapologetic” runs to almost four minutes with two distinct parts, the main verses that have distorted harmonic guitar notes and Carter’s staccato delivery and the piercing high notes of the “who’s” the bull in the China shop now?” part.

“Straight Jacket” is less abrasive than the other songs with a more new wave feel and Carter’s vocals more melodic.  “Covert Contracts” plays a lot with empty space–there’s moments with just bass and moments with just drums but the loud guitars are never far away, ready to fill in with squalls just when the song seem like they might be getting too quiet.

“Betrayed” returns to the angry style of the earlier songs–harsh guitars and appropriately angry vocals.  “Ego Deaf” has a few pummeling drum rolls in just over two minutes with a bass and drum-only portion before the ringing solo comes in.  “Traffic” is only 90 seconds long and it soars with harsh notes and angry vocals. Amazingly, it even has time for a slower middle section and a pause before the speed resumes.

“Prism” is a terrific new wave song.  The verses start with just bass and drums and vocals.  The chorus is crazy catchy, yes catchy.  Although the noisy guitar squalls after the chorus keep it from being too poppy.  The disc ends with “Black Hole” which shows off more of those drum fills and that rumbling bass.

This album is a cathartic blast and when the 30 minutes are over, you’ll want to start it again.

[READ: November 10, 2020] Mind of My Mind

I recently read (and loved) an excerpt from one of Octavia Butler’s stories.  So when this book came across my desk (perhaps all of her books are getting reissued in trade paperback?) I immediately decided it was time to start reading her books.

Obviously one wants to read a series in order.  But this was the book I so I hoped I could start here.  I had seen there was a prequel to this book, but that it was written after this one.  Just to make things more confusing, none of the books in the Patternist series were written in chronological story order.  Here is the story timeline (and when they were written).

1 Wild Seed (1980)
2 Mind of My Mind (1977)
3 Clay’s Ark (1984)
4 Survivor (1978)
5 Patternmaster (1976)

So this is the second book written and the second book chronologically.

At any rate, I didn’t need the other books to appreciate or understand this one.

The premise is fairly simple, but the execution is outstanding. Continue Reading »

SOUNDTRACK: AND THE KIDS-When This Life Is Over (2019).

I’ve seen And the Kids twice and they put on a fantastic live show.  I highly recommend seeing them when live shows start again. 

The core of the band is Hannah Mohan on guitar and vocals and Rebecca Lasaponaro on (fantastic) drums.  For this record they were a four piece (although no names are included on the disc).

“No Way Sit Back” starts the record with a slow swinging song that features the wonderful wordless hook of Mohan singing “oooh oh oh no.” Midway through, the song shifts gears to a kind of glockenspiel melody over the lyrics “the world is never made for us.”  Even though lyrically this album is dark, musically it is really lovely.

“Butterfingers” lopes along at an unusual pace before a really catchy guitar melody kicks in midway through.  There’s some more catchy melodies as the two vocals line intertwine with each other.  Then comes “Champagne Ladies” a remarkably catchy song right from the get go.  The quietly rumbling guitar and the great vocal melody is nicely mimicked by the bass.  It’s a really fantastic song and should have been a big hit, even with the uplifting chorus: “life is a bastard, it wants to kill you don’t let go.”  But if the lyrics are too dark, there’s another fun wordless “ah ah ah” melody near the end.    

“2003” opens with a penny whistle introduction (when I saw them live, Mohan played the whistle and then just tossed it aside before she started singing).  There’s some excellent unusual and complex drumming at the top of this song. 

“The Final Free” has grooving guitars and a cool part in the middle where the guitar follows the vocal line in a quiet but catchy melody.  “When This Life Is Over” has a kind of hawaiian feel to it with guitars and choral vocals.   “Special For Nothing” is a quieter song that builds into a gorgeous soaring chorus. When the song shifts to the middle part and the music all falls back except for the vocals, it’s really quite lovely.  I love when the backing vocals do counterpoint over the refrain

“Get To That Place” is a short song, less than two minutes and sounds like a bedroom recording (lots of hiss) but as the song gets bigger there’s some cool vocal tricks (so much soaring highs) and glockenspiel.  It’s followed by another short song.  The mellow “Somethings (Are) Good” is just over two minutes with more overlapping vocals and a dynamite melody. 

“White Comforters” sounds bigger and more full sized.  It’s much slower with a bouncy guitar melody and a lot of spare playing. It starts a little too quietly but it builds very nicely.  “Religion” brings back the rocking guitars with a loud opening and a simple but catchy guitar melody, the joyous vocals with two layers of oh ho ho s really makes this song soar to glorious heights.

The disc ends with “Basically We Are Dead” a longer song that opens with a quieter guitar melody and vocal.  Atmospheric keys fill in the backing moments along with a bouncy synth melody and some joyful bah bah bahdahs.  But before the song ends, some familiar chugging guitar chords enter the song and they sing the chorus to “Champagne Ladies” one last time before it’s all over.

And the Kids play wonderful indie pop with plenty of unexpected twists.  And they are terrific live, too.

[READ: November 5, 2020] The Divided Earth

This is the final book in the The Nameless City trilogy.

The book opens with the leaders of the city agreeing that their sacred fire, Napatha, must be destroyed, lest it be used by one of the splintering factions.  But one copy of the recipe spared–given to the monks to hide for as long as was necessary.

Then we flash forward.

Kaidu is sitting with Rat and the others, resting up for what’s to come.

We see Mura, the woman who was abandoned by the monks as a little girl, receiving that copy of the book from the monks (they are hesitant).  She has every intention of learning the formula and creating the Napatha again. She imagines giving the formula to all of the other Dao generals for maximum production against the Yisun.  But Ezri, who has forcibly put himself in charge of the Dao people, wants to keep it under wraps.  Being a treacherous person, he anticipates treachery from everyone else as well.

The Yisun army is marching on the city.  Ezri hopes to have the Napataha ready to use against them.  He has just enough to show how powerful it is.  And it has the desired effect.

When Rat and Kaidu see what happened, Kaidu announces that he is going to steal the book from Mura’s clutches.  How?  Well, that’s where most of this book’;s adventure comes in.  It’s clever and stealthy and very exciting with switches and crosses and trouble everywhere.  They even get help from their minstrek friends (it’s always nice to see minor characters come back). 

At the same time, Kaidu’s parents (Kata and Andren) are (unbeknownst to Kadi and Rat) planning to negotiate with the Yisun army to save the city  Kata explains that she is in charge of the Dao tribe Liuvedao and she is no friend to the Dao regime currently ruling.

The soldier in charge of the Yisun army scoffs at this idea.  Until Kata’s secret weapon (which she didn’t know she had) steps forward and explains why the Yisun leader might want to hear them out. Kata proposes an dambush on the city, using an equal amount of Kata’s forces and the Yisum army. 

None of the attacking plans go smoothly.  Rat and Kaidu face very difficult odds (and many soldiers) and the ambush team literally walks into a dead end and needs to be rerouted through a sewer tunnel (ew).

There is a terrific showdown between Rat and Mura, two women whose lives began in a similar way but who took very different paths. And there are many many pages of battle scenes.  Hicks does a great job of keeping the action exciting and clear, with lots of one one one combat as well as an army of warriors.

The story has an epilogue set three years later, which is fun. It’s neat to see Kadi and Rat grows up some, although I could have used a dozen more pages of epilogue to see what things are like now.  And to see them catch up (there’s no Facetime back then). 

But even so, this was a great series, full of excitement and very emotional moments,.

[POSTPONED: November 14, 2020] Torres / Sarah Jaffe [rescheduled from May 19; moved to October 18, 2021]

indexTorres is a wonderful musician who I feel has really gotten the brunt of the industry and now the coronavirus.  She really counts on shows and it’s a real shame that her shows keep getting postponed.

I have seen Torres in a small, intimate show (which was amazing) and then in a slightly larger venue (which was excellent in a different way).

I didn’t think I ‘d need to see her again, but I follow her on Instagram and was really interested in seeing her new show (especially in a different venue).  I haven’t heard all of the new album, but I did like the first single.

Sarah Jaffe is a singer from Texas.  She seems to play a lot of different styles, from folkie (“Clementine”) to more pop rocking (“Glorified High”). I enjoyed the few tracks I listened to and imagine she’d be a fun live performer.

SOUNDTRACK: BORIS-präparat (2013).

präparat is Boris’ 18th album.  It contains a huge variety of styles in its 40 some minutes.  It also features a couple of guests.  Michio Kurihara plays guitar on track 3 and 5 and Gisèle Vienne offers spoken word on track 6.

So this album starts with one of the band’s most beautiful instrumentals.  “december” is slow with a cool bassline and gentle drums. The lead guitar perfectly matches the strummed bass.  It’s a lovely post-rock instrumental complete with a section that manipulates the volume knob to bring in extra soft notes.

The pretty guitars continue to ring in on “哀歌 -elegy-” for about 20 seconds before the ominous distortion means an oncoming crash of chords.  But this is a slow crash of chords with some gentle singing (from Takeshi?) in the melodic verses.  About three minutes in the song jumps into a fast rocking section with a great guitar riff and heavy drumming. It’s excellent.

It segues into the 57 second noise fest that is “evil stack 3.”  It’s just distortion and wild soloing, a noisy interlude that is abruptly ended by the gentle “砂時計 -monologue-”  This song is four minutes long complete with gentle drums, and pretty guitars.  About halfway in, it takes off in another postrock spectacle of pretty guitars and a gentle melody.

“method of error” features Michio Kurihara on guitar and starts with some slow heavy thumping chords.  Church bells come echoing in followed by soaring guitars.  The drums interject crashing sounds from time to time.  Two guitars provide an extra wailing solo as the rest of the band jams a heavy chunky riff.  This song runs over 7 minutes.

“bataille sucre” starts off quietly but then brings in a loud ringing guitar.  Then an old school heavy metal riff begins with some screaming lead guitars.  The guest vocals are whispered (presumably in French) and add texture (if you don’t know what she’s saying).

Then comes two songs in under a minute.  “perforated line” is 34 seconds of fast heavy guitar (and synth) that feels like the beginning of song, but it abruptly ends and jumps into the oddball, almost dance stylings of “コップの内側 -castel in the air-” all SEVEN SECONDS of it.  It’s followed by “mirano” which is a warped, carnivalesque waltz with keys and possibly vibes.

“カンヴァス -canvas-” has the tone of a Kim Gordon Sonic Youth song with fuzzy guitars and an almost whispered vocal, although the chorus is pure shoegaze with layers of soft vocals.  About half way through the band add a noisy wall that sounds like it’s going to explode, but it just drops away for some clear crooning from Takeshi.

The disc ends with the eight and a half minute “maeve.”  It opens with skittery percussion and faraway gongs.  Then comes a distorted slow riff.  It’s a slow drone-like song that lumbers along for about six minutes.  The last two are a wave of distortion that sounds like a slow heavy train echoing through your head. 

I love the diversity of this record and the tracks that are not experimental are just dynamite.  I’m really glad this album is no longer hidden away.

[READ: November 12, 2020] The Proof

The Little Buddhist Monk (written 2005) has been bundled with The Proof (written 1989) together in one book.  Both stories were translated by Nick Caistor.

The Proof is about as different from The Little Buddhist Monk as you could get.  It’s also the most visceral story I’ve read by Aira, whose stories tend to be very “of the mind.”

Indeed, you can tell this story is quite different just from the way it starts.

“Wannafuck?”

This question is asked to Marcia (a senior in high school?–she’s “fourth year”) as she is walking down the street.  There are groups of teenagers hanging around,and this question comes from one of the girls.  Continue Reading »