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Archive for the ‘Alternate Reality’ Category

516ZKjM2CqL._SX351_BO1,204,203,200_ (1) SOUNDTRACK: ELISAPIE-Tiny Desk Concert #948 (February 20, 2020).

downloadElisapie (I have no idea how to pronounce that) is a First Nations singer from Salluit, on the Northern tip of Quebec.

She sings in Inuktitut (as well as in English and French).  And her voice is absolutely intense.

Her songs are very personal–she sings of

her life as an adopted child and of meeting her biological mother. Now, as a mother herself, she sings about what it must have meant to her own mother to give up her child.

Elisapie left her birth-village, Salluit, as a teenager and headed to Montreal, leaving her community and her sick mom. The songs she sings, here all come from her album, The Ballad of the Runaway Girl and deal with the consequences of her leaving.

These songs are definitely rock, but with a different overall sound.  Jason Sharp’s bass saxophone is fantastic–creating deep low rumbles and otherworldly squawks.

“Arnaq” opens with some chugging guitar riffs (I can’t tell if the guitar is acoustic or electric) from Joe Grass and after a verse or so, some great noisy electric guitars from Josh Toal, who punctuates the song with little solos.  There’s no bass guitar because the bass saxophone covers all of the low ends.

The song, even though it is in Inuktitut is rally catchy with a chorus of “ahhhhhh, I, yi, I” (or something).

The middle section is full of great noises as both guitars and the sax all play some wild solos.

All of this is held together by “the tasteful drumming of Evan Tighe.”

She says the second song, “Una” is the most painful yet the most freeing song.  It is  written to her biological mother.  In Inuktitut the word for mother means “our little bag” because they carried us.

It opens with slow staccato guitar chords and a near a capella vocal before the quiet electric guitar from Josh Toal joins in.  The spareness of the beginning of this song is a great counterpoint to the end of the song when everyone joins in–vocals, guitars, sax and some complex drumming.

Before the final song, she looks around and smiles and says Lizzo was here!  My daughter is very excited.

The final song “Darkness Bring The Light” opens with some great weird sounds from everyone.  Tighe makes scraping metallic sounds as he slides his drum sticks around the cymbals.  Toal plays a synth intro as Grass bows his guitar and Sharp makes waves of gentle sounds to underpin the melody

This one is in English.  She sings a melody that rides over the sounds.  After 2 minutes the drums kick in and after a run through of the chorus, the guitarists join in

Bob Boilen concludes

This is an extraordinary Tiny Desk from an artist with something meaningful to say.

He is absolutely correct.  This set is fantastic.

[READ: March 10, 2020] Gunnerkrigg Court 4 [32-41]

I really enjoyed the first three books of this series and then promptly forgot about it.  I happened to see this book at the library and was excited to see that I hadn’t read it.  Can it really have been three years since I last read about these characters?

Being away for so long made some of this a little confusing.  I will have to read the whole story again some time.

Chapter 32 shows Antimony returning from the forest and there is a warm welcome with Renard. But Katarina’s welcome is cool–“you kinda make it hard to be your friend.” Antimony tries very hard to make Kat like her again…too hard.  She creates scary situations in which she can “save” Kat,  It doesn’t exactly work, although Kat isn’t really mad anymore, just annoyed.  But then a gigantic creepy monster thing comes out of the water.  Kat is impressed by Annie’s conjuring until Annie says she didn’t do it.  They run out.

Only to learn that this is Lindsey–the creature who helped design most of everything at the court–a giant crablike creature.

All this time Kat has been working on the idea of growing a robot.  Well, not exactly, but kind of.  She imagines using a muscular frame to build a robot body around.  Or something.  She is able to use the smarts of one of the existing robots to give her a hand.  The code they provide is actually a small white cube with no writing on it.  Amazingly Kat is able to read parts of it. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RONG-“Shrugging at the Dearth of Discourse” (2019).

Every year Lars Gotrich publishes his list of favorite music in an NPR podcast called Viking’s Choice: The Year In The Loud And The Weird.  I always listen to these songs because I’ll never hear them anywhere else (he mostly seems to scour bandcamp for unknown music.

One that he especially liked was by the band Rong from Boston.

He says:

Just bonkers. Boston’s Rong channels the joyous chaos of Japanese punks Melt-Banana and the aggro skronk of Brainiac with a tad of Deerhoof’s weirdo-pop hooks, in what sounds like a swarm of bats fighting a comically large industrial fan… and the bats win. Dissect the noise and you’ll find some truly athletic guitar interplay, held together by a sturdy rhythm section and Olivia W-B’s vocal acrobatics.

This song starts out with Olivia screaming quickly and almost inaudibly while the drummer thrashes away on every surface nearby.  There appears to be two guitars each playing their own riff that seems irrelevant to anything else. It’s a chaotic statement that will likely make most people turn the song off.   After 30 seconds one of the guitars plays a riff and at 35 seconds the riff is actually really catchy and Olivia sings along with it.  Wow.

And the song is not even one third over.

After a few more rounds through similar styles things really slow down around 1:45.  It is just bass and drums and vocals for a bit before two separate solos happen at once.  About five more parts occur before the song ends at 3:11.  This includes a riff that is repeated a few times and a absolutely berzerk ending.

That’s the first of 8 similarly eclectic and, yes, bonkers, songs.  Finding the melody and connections between the parts is rather strangely rewarding.

Incidentally, the final track on the album is called . ༼ ༎ຶ ෴ ༎ຶ༽   In a bigger font, that’s:

༼ ༎ຶ ෴ ༎ຶ༽

[READ: Summer 2019] The Long Cosmos

The “Long Earth” Tetrology is complete.

This was a series that was pretty much impossible to end.  I mean the very premise is that there is unlimited exploration to be had in the various “Earths.”  So how do you end it?  Well, really you end it by following the main protagonist of all of this, Joshua Valiente to his logical conclusion (or something like that).

This book also serves as a kind of reconciliation for many of the estranged characters, but, thankfully does not resurrect any dead characters (well, except for Lobsang–whatever he may be).

The Foreword to this book answers a question that I had: If Terry Pratchett died in 2015, did he have anything to do with this book which came out in 2016?  Baxter explains that indeed, he and Pratchett had created drafts of the final three books by August 2013.  Terry and Stephen worked on the book together as late as autumn 2014.  Then Baxter dealt with final editorial and publishing stages.  So that makes me happy.

I am, as always with this series, puzzled as to what Terry’s contributions were to the books.  I haven’t read anything else by Baxter, so I don’t know if this is a Baxter book with Pratchett sprinkled in or if it’s a combination of their writing styles   The one thing is that this series is never really all that funny (with one huge exception later).  Not to say that Pratchett had to be funny, but it was certainly what he was known for.  Maybe I’ll try a Baxter book one of these days to see just what his works are like.

But back to the concluding chapter of this long series.

This book opens with the invitation: JOIN US. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: FALHA COMUM-“Film Do Mundo” (2019).

Every year Lars Gotrich publishes his list of favorite music in an NPR podcast called Viking’s Choice: The Year In The Loud And The Weird.  I always listen to these songs because I’ll never hear them anywhere else (he mostly seems to scour bandcamp for unknown music.

One that he especially liked was by this band Falha Comum, a duo from Brazil.

He says:

The Brazilian post-punks scaled down to a duo, but opened a festering third eye. The psychedelic noise receptors of a previous decade (think Raccoo-oo-oon and Gowns) run throughout Rakta’s Falha Comum, but in levels below, the sinister grooves and cackled reverb inhabit a life all their own with primal incantations to spirits unknown.

The album is like a few things and nothing else that I’ve heard.  There’s elements of krautrock–but not sterile and efficient, more groovy and cool, with a warm bass and seemingly wild, improvised vocals.

This particular song is 7 minutes long and opens with a spoken word section (presumably in Portuguese).  There are synths and screams behind the speaking and then everything starts pulsing as the vocals echo and echo.   The music–a simple repetitive drum and bass (I guess) line, keep a terrific groove going while on top, the high notes (vocals and other synths) skitter and flit about.

Midway through, the song goes through a phase shift–it sounds like it’s been transported somewhere else, and that’s when the bass gets cleaner and the vocals grow a bit more intense.  But the groove remains.

Somewhere around 6 minutes, the groove changes slightly–a brief shift in notes suddenly gives the song a brief moment of extra melody.  The following keyboard frenzy keeps it from getting too comfortably melodic though.

It’s an unexpectedly interesting and cool record.

[READ: Summer 2019] The Long Utopia

This was the fourth book in the Long Earth series.  I brought it along on vacation thinking it would be a fairly slow and leisurely read like the others—something I didn’t mind putting down and picking up a few days later.  But this book changed that pattern entirely.  It was fast paced and quite exciting and my favorite book of the series so far.

The previous book about the Long Mars seemed to be more than anything else, a distraction.  Not a lot happened, although there were some cool ideas in it.  The one big thing that book 3 did that effects book 4 is the cable/elevator thing—which I still don’t understand [see yesterday’s post about book 3].

This book also introduces a new concept in Stepping.  Typically Stepping is described as moving left or right, east or west through the Earths.  But suddenly, in this one world, it seemed like a person could move…north.  Into an entirely different world—night instead of day:  “No stars exactly, it was like he could see the whole galaxy…from outside.”

This book is set in 2052.  Protagonist Joshua Valiente:

will be 50 years old. He has been stepping for 35 years and has been all over the Long Earth.  But some things are still unsettling—things that he can feel in his bones or his head.

The reason for his feelings date back to 2036 in New Springfield.  Cassie Poulson had been digging a basement for her house when she hit some kind of opening.  Not a cave or anything natural, but some kind of manufactured tunnel or the like.  When she poked her head in,  what poked back was a humanoid metal beetle.  Obviously she freaked out and covered up the hole. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: FIRE-TOOLZ-“mailto:spasm@swamp.god?subject=Mind-Body Parallels” (2019).

Every year Lars Gotrich publishes his list of favorite music in an NPR podcast called Viking’s Choice: The Year In The Loud And The Weird.  I always listen to these songs because I’ll never hear them anywhere else (he mostly seems to scour bandcamp for unknown music.

One that he especially liked was by this band Fire-Toolz.  He says:

When I try to describe the simultaneously fantastical and obliterating sounds of Fire-Toolz to folks, I usually throw my hands up — not out of frustration, but from awe. Angel Marcloid has clashed New Age synthscapes, clubby raves, jazz fusion and metal shrieks for a few years now, but Field Whispers (Into the Crystal Palace) goes beyond the mash-up, into an idiosyncratic master’s pure creation.

The album credits indicate: Angel Marcloid: voice, drums, electric & acoustic guitar, fretless bass, virtual studio technology, field recordings, circuit-bent junk, composition, lyrics, recording, production, mixing, mastering.

The only other musician is Ian Smith: who plays what can only be described as a smooth-jazz saxophone solo.  Oh, and her cat, Breakfast, gets a vocal turn.

I have listened to some of the whole record, (a lot of tape manipulation on track 2), but nothing sums up the project like the first song, “mailto:spasm@swamp.god?subject=Mind-Body Parallels” (yes, that’s the title).  In 2 minutes and 11 seconds, she includes more genres than I can name.  And the amazing thing is that unlike other artists who squeeze many genres into one song (there are those who do this well and those who do not), these shifts feel at once hairpin but also natural. 

The song starts with a skittery electric melody that almost sounds like digital pipe organ.  It’s very new-agey, but with heavier drums than you might expect.  The quiet death metal growling is certainly unexpected, but somehow it doesn’t feel out of place (and is low enough in the mix to feel more like another sound than vocals–I have no idea what she’s saying).

After the first verse the music shifts to a kind of jazzy new age followed by a punishingly fast electronic drum and a scorching heavy metal solo and the song devolves or crescendos with inhuman growls.

Welcome to 2020!

[READ: May 2019] The Long Mars

I found the first book in this series rather compelling–almost surprisingly so given that it’s not a fast-paced book and, to be honest, not a lot happens.

But it was really well written and the things that do happen are compelling and fascinating.  And I couldn’t wait to read more.

In the first book:

A man creates an invention (The Stepper) which allows one to step into a parallel world that is next to ours.  There are a possibly infinite numbers of parallel worlds in each direction (East or West).  The worlds that are closer to ours are almost identical to our Earth (known as Datum Earth).  The further you go, the greater the differences.  But none of them have experienced humanity before Step Day (aside from earlier hominids).

The main character is Joshua Valienté.  Joshua is a natural “Stepper.”  He doesn’t need the device to Step from one word to the next, nor does he feel the nausea and other side effects that most people feel as they travel.  Most of the book follows his exploits.

The Black corporate has a ship with an entity known as Lobsang who claims that he was a human reincarnated as artificial intelligence.  Joshua is sure that Lobsang is a computer, but Lobsang’s human skills are uncanny.  This ship has managed to Step as an entity, meaning everything in the ship can go with them.  Normally you can only bring what you can carry (aside from metal).

The novel more or less is an exploratory one with Joshua and Lobsang Stepping through millions of Earths.  Not a lot happens, but the novel never grows boring.  The interactions between Joshua and Lobsang are often funny.  And the writers have infused the Earths that they stop in with just enough differences to make each stop strangely compelling (this must be Baxter’s hard science leanings).

I found the second book less compelling on a story level, but no less compelling on a conceptual level.  There was still some cool stuff going on.

Joshua Valienté has settled down in a town called Hell-Knows-Where.  He has a wife, Helen, and a child, Daniel, and lots of regrets about what happened at the end of book one.  He is embedded with the rest of the community.  They show off what a successful community can be way out in the Long Earth.  It is more or less cut off from Datum Earth, which means that everyone needs to work for the community to survive.  Since trust and companionship are key to survival, people don’t really try to take advantage of others and crime is pretty much nonexistent.

This independence is a major concern for the governments of Datum Earth.  In fact, some of the more thriving distant communities (like Valhalla) want to declare independence from Datum Earth altogether.

Another issue is human (or alien) rights.  The trolls from the first book have become a part of most communities at this point.  And yet, the way they are treated seems largely dependent on who they are with.  Some are welcomed like family members, other are treated like animals, slaves or worse.   And the mistreatment of a mother and son troll are what set a series of events in motion.   Maggie Kauffman is a new character introduced to speak on behalf of the trolls.  Before their otherwise peaceful nature gets pushed too far.

Another plot line (and there are quite a few) concerns Roberta Golding, a young genius who goes on an exploratory mission with the Chinese.  The Chinese are exploring the “East Earths” (most of the other travelers went West).  Roberta is an odd child, who anticipated jokes and therefore finds nothing funny. She is cold and emotionless.  Her story remains unresolved by the end of the book.  But her crew managed to get to Earth East 20,000,000 with the crew.

When Sally tries to get Joshua involved in an adventure once again, he is reluctant, but Helen is the one who spurs him on–as long as she and Dan go with him. This adventure is a bit of backtracking, though–an attempt to use Joshua’s name and status back on Datum Earth–where he is not welcomed by everyone.  He tries to prevent the government from harming trolls–because he knows what is at stake if the trolls grow angry.

In their adventure, they also encounter a race of beings known as Beagles.  It is a pretty dark and disturbing world, with Joshua getting tortured and Sally and Monica being the only things keeping him from a brutal death.   There’s a lot of brutality now, which is not unexpected given the reality of the situation, but it does often seem rather harsh

That’s a lot of summary to prepare for Book Three.  But book three does continue the saga, just another twenty years or so later.

(more…)

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shoppingSOUNDTRACK: MATT MAYS-Live at Massey Hall (May 4, 2018).

I had never heard of Matt Mays.  He was once a part of the Canadian country band The Guthries (who I also don’t know).  Perhaps the most surprising (and disappointing) thing to me about this show is when I saw an ad for this concert and saw that Kathleen Edwards was opening for him (!).  And that so far they haven’t released the Kathleen Edwards show.

Before the show he says he wants all feelings present–happy, sad–he praises the expression “all the feels” because that’s what he wants to happen tonight.  He wants the night to be “like a Nova Scotia kitchen party.”  You laugh you cry you dance and you fight all in one kitchen.

He starts with “Indio.”  Like most of these songs, it is a rocking guitar song with a definite country-rock feel.  It’s also interesting that a Nova Scotia guy is singing about “old fashioned California sin.”  There’s a ton of lead guitar work from Adam Baldwin.  Mays also plays guitar and there’s an acoustic guitar as well from Aaron Goldstein  The song breaks midway through to a piano melody from Leith Fleming-Smith.  Mays asks “You feel like singing Toronto? It’s real easy.”  And it is: “Run run run you are free now.  run run run you are free.”

For “Station Out of Range,” he invites his dear friend Kate Dyke from St Johns, Newfoundland.  She sings backing vocals.  It opens with some big crushing drums from Loel Campbell.  It has a slower tempo, but it grows really big with some really massive drum fills.

“Building a Boat” opens with a repeating keyboard pattern before a real rocking riff kicks in.  Ryan Stanley also plays guitars.  The song rocks on with a lot of little guitar solos.  Mays takes one and then Baldwin follows.  They jam this pretty long.

“Take It on Faith” starts with a simple piano before the guitars come roaring in with two searing solos.  The melody is really catchy, too.

“Terminal Romance” is a slower number.  Mays puts his guitar down and its mostly piano and bass
(Serge Samson).  Eventually a guitar with a slide is added.  It builds as more guitars come in.  They jam this song for about 8 minutes.

He ends the show with “Cocaine Cowgirl,” an oldie that still means a lot to him.   He says he’s been playing Toronto since he was 19 years-old in font of tow people.  He’s thrilled to be at Massey Hall.  His band is his best buds from Nova Scotia.   It’s an absolutely wailing set ender with Mays throwing in some wicked solos.  The song seems like its over but Mays plays some really fast guitar chords and aftee a few bars everyone joins in and rips the place part with intensity.  It runs to nearly ten minutes and it’s a  really satisfying ending.

[READ: August 3, 2019] “Shopping in Jail”

When an author releases a lot of books and essays in various formats, it’s pretty inevitable that you’ll wind up re-reading one or two.  Especially if some of those essays are reprinted in other books.

So it turns out that I read this small book five years ago (it’s understandable that I didn’t remember that after five years).  Here’s what I said about it five years ago:

Just when I thought I had caught up with everything that Douglas Coupland had published, I came across this book, a collection of his recent essays.  I enjoy the very unartistic cover that Sternberg Press has put on this.  It looks extremely slapdash–look at the size of the print and that the contents are on the inside front cover.  But the essays contained within are pure Coupland and are really enjoyable.

I have read a number of his older essays in recent years.  And here’s the thing: reading old Coupland essays just makes you think, ho hum, he knew some things.  But you don’t really think that he was on the forefront of whatever he was thinking.  So to read these essays almost concurrently is really fascinating.

His thoughts are science fiction, but just on the cusp of being very possible, even probable.  He also looks at things in ways that the average person does not–he notices that on 9/11 people didn’t have picture phones–imagine how more highly documented it would have been.  These essays are largely about technology, but they’re also about the maturation and development of people and how they relate to things.  Coupland can often seem very ponderous, and yet with these essays he seems prescient without actually trying to predict anything.  I enjoyed this collection very much.

I’m going to include what I said last time (in italics), but I felt the need to add some five-years later thoughts on each essay. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: FIONA APPLE-“The Whole of the Moon” (2019).

I’m rather a fan of a good cover song.  I don’t really like when bands play covers live–I’m here for your music not someone else’s–but a studio recording is usually welcome.

It’s especially helpful if it’s an artist I like doing a song I like.  Such as with this one.

I learned about The Waterboys back in college.  I hung out with Irish musicians and they introduced me to Irish bands.  Although we were more Fisherman’s Blues than This is the Sea, I still really enjoyed “The Whole of the Moon.”

Lyrically the song is simple but very clever.  It works through many comparisons about how “I” see things less completely than “you” do.

I was grounded
While you filled the skies
I was dumbfounded by truth
You cut through lies
I saw the rain dirty valley
You saw Brigadoon
I saw the crescent
You saw the whole of the moon

I also always like the part where the line “you came like a comet” is followed by an explosion–satisfyingly over the top.

The occasion of Fiona Apple covering it has to do with the show The Affair which I’d never heard of.  Evidently the season finale opens with The Waterboys’ version and ends with this new Fiona Apple version.  Fiona Apple’s song “Container” is used in the opening credits, so she already has ties to the show.

I can remember “discovering” Fiona Apple through an issue of New Music Monthly about two months before her debut came out.  I really liked “Shadowboxer” and then the whole album.  It was quite a surprise to me when she became a huge star soon thereafter.  And by the time she toured where I lived, the crowd was full of screaming girls.

Nevertheless, I have stuck with her because her music is always terrific.

Her voice has always been kind of raspy and deep–with a quirky range.  But she really pushes herself on this version.  She sounds worn out and it really works for these lyrics.

It stars with gentle synths and a drum pattern.  After the first verse, a full band comes in, with a trippy slide guitar (rather than the 80’s synths of the original).  But it stays pretty simple–this song is about the lyrics.  The middle instrumental section is similarly horn-based, but with a bit of piano and more slide guitar tossed in.

As the song goes on, Apple’s voice gets more and more intense.  The way she sings: “I sighed / but you swooned” will give you chills.

The Waterboys version has a cute musical ending which Apple removes. She also refrains from the comet explosion.

It’s stripped down and really fantastic.

[READ: September 23, 2019] Herbert’s Wormhole Book 3

I accidentally read Book 3 before Book 2.  I am embarrassed that that happened because I am a librarian and I should know better, but I double checked to see which came out first, but I must have read a paperback reprint with a later publishing date and though that book 3 was in fact book 2.

So I read book three and on many occasions I thought “How daring and surprising and hilarious that the Peter Nelson is referencing things that we did not see.”  I assumed that between book 1 and this one, the kids had had many adventures that we didn’t know anything about.  They would just casually refer to them.  This does happen in TV shows all the time, but I guess not in children’s books.  So I should have known better, but I was excited about the prospect of this rather author twist.  I do admit by the end that there were a number of things where I thought…hmmm…. this is referencing something that I think I should know about.  But I was far enough along at that point not to stop.

Turns out, at the end of Book 2 (I found out later), we see that GOR-DON’s plan for destroying the AlienSlayers is not his own.  It is actually  the plan of an evil mastermind.  An evil mastermind who we learn is called Aerostar.

But the real crisis is in the Filby household.  Because Alex’s dad is going to knock down the jungle gym (that they put up for Alex just last year) to make room for a huge playhouse for his bratty little sister, Ellie (“some serious assembly required”).  This will effectively destroy the wormhole!  What will they do now? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DEODATO-Prelude (1973).

I know this artist because of Phish.  For years I thought that they “wrote” the discoey, funky. super cool version of “Also Sprach Zarathustra” which they play at a lot of shows.

I should have realized that the “Deodato” in the credits was the actual arranger of this cool piece, but I guess I never really thought about it.  I’ve no idea where the realization came to me, but once it did I decided  to check out the album from which it comes.

It turns out that Deodato is Eumir Deodato de Almeida (Brazilian Portuguese: [ẽʊ̃ˈmiχ djoˈdatu]; born June 22, 1942) is a Brazilian pianist, composer, arranger, and record producer, primarily in jazz but who has been known for his eclectic melding of genres, such as pop, rock, disco, rhythm and blues, classical, Latin and bossa nova.  Prelude was his first album released in the U.S. (released when he was 31) and eighth overall.  In addition to making over 30 albums, he has also been a producer and arranger on everything from Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration” to Bjork’s albums PostTelegram, and Homogenic

“Also Sprach Zarathustra” begins with twinkling and guitar noises for 30 seconds before the 5-note funky keyboard comes in.  And then about a minute in the horns join to create the familiar Richard Strauss “Also Sprach Zarathustra” crescendo.  Even though that melody is barely a minute long, this version is 9 minutes long with a lengthy funky keyboard solo occasionally punctuated by horns.  It then switches to a more rocking sound with a 70s sounding guitar solo.  It really never loses the funk for the entirety of the piece.

“Spirit Of Summer” is a slow moody song that sounds like it could be the soundtrack to a noir film with slinky horn lines and jazzy bass.  I love the opening and how it then switches to an almost easy listening string section before adding a mellow keyboard solo and a surprising very fast flamenco guitar solo as well.   The song is only four minutes and ends with a flute solo and then a return to the opening horns.

“Carly & Carole” is an easy, mildly funky jazzy number.  There’s lead flute combined with the keys that push the song along.

“Baubles, Bangles, & Beads” is a jaunty five-minute romp that sounds like it would have been very popular at swinging parties in the 1970s.  There’s more flute and keys and two lengthy wild Santana-like guitar solos that run through to the end of the song.

“Prelude To The Afternoon Of A Faun” opens with a mournful flute that sounds a lot like the weird Snoopy interludes when he is the World War I Flying Ace in the old Peanuts cartoons.  The melody is quite nice and is then repeated by several instruments throughout the piece.   After 2 minutes it tuns into a swinging jazzy number with a flute solo and wah wah guitars and a bright trumpet solo.  I see now that this piece was done by Debussy and this is another arrangement.  It is not used in Peanuts although Schulz does reference the song in a strip.

“September 13” ends the disc with an upbeat funky song with groovy bass and keys and wah wah guitars.  There’s a wild mildly distorted guitar solo with fun effects put on it.  It’s a fun way to end an album that is short but really captures a moment in time.

[READ: September 3, 2019] Herbert’s Wormhole Book 2

I accidentally read Book 3 before Book 2.  I am embarrassed that that happened because I am a librarian and I should know better, but I checked on Goodreads and must have read a paperback reprint pub date and though that book 3 was in fact book 2.

Having read book three I basically knew a lot of what happened in book 2.  But primarily this is because in book 3 they make offhanded comments to things they did in book 2.  Incidentally, while I was reading book 3 I thought it was a really fun, bold move on the author’s part to reference adventurers that we hadn’t read about.  That should have dawned on me but I just persisted in believing that the author was being really daring. Oh well.

Knowing what happened didn’t really spoil anything, because the book is silly and funny anyhow.

This book opens with a paneled cartoon recap of book 1.

It’s followed by a hilarious opening sequence in which Alex’s dad has become hooked on video games.  He was trying to bond with Alex over Alex’s love of video games.  But in book 1, Alex’s memory of video games is wiped out.  So now his father is playing them and Alex doesn’t really see the point.  But Alex’s father is now as addicted as Alex was. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: A-WA-Tiny Desk Concert #8876 (September 3, 2019).

I knew of A-WA and had seen them in a South X Lullaby this year.  But  that song was performed quietly, with just a guitarist.  This session is full band with all kinds of dancey accouterments.

Liron, Tair, and Tagel Haim [left to right] are behind my desk with a full band of keyboards, bass, guitar and drums, singing more forlorn tunes in their unique three-part harmony.  Their songs mix Yemenite and Arabic traditions with splashes of reggae and hip-hop.

These songs also have the lyrics translated at the bottom of the screen.  Since Bob says the songs are sad, I haven’t been reading too much, just enjoying the melodies [I’ll let Bob talk about the song in brackets]

The first song is “Habib Galbi” (“Love of My Heart”), [a heartbreaking song that went viral for A-WA in 2016].

I don’t know much of anything in the languages they are singing, but back in 1988 Israeli singer Ofra Haza released an album that I really liked and one of the great songs was “Galbi.”  So here it is again and it means “mt heart.”

‘Habib Galbi” opens with Middle Eastern melodies played on a synth (by Noam Havkin)–it’s a cool combination of traditional and modern almost futuristic.  It even has some electronic percussion (from Tal Cohen) and some great bass from Nitzan Eisenberg.  I love that there’s an occasional “Woo!” and lots of hand claps.  It is so dancey, how can it be heartbreaking?

 A-WA have recently released a second album, Bayti Fi Rasi (in Yemenite it means My Home is in My Head). The record tells the story of their grandmother traveling from Yemen to Israel.  The final two songs come from that recent album.

The second song “Al Asad” (“The Lion”) has the reggae feel in with the staccato guitar and a cool guitar solo from Yiftach Shachaf.  It “is a metaphorical tale of facing down a lion in your path.”

Once again, their movements and tone belie the story, as they move so almost sensually to the music as they sing (in fairness, it’s hard not to).

The last song “Hana Mash Hu Al Yaman,” (“Here is Not Yemen”) features some amazing rolling of r’s as they sing–I’m thinking it’s the word for “wheat.”  Once again, despite the music, this song

paints the struggles of coming to a new land, learning the language, finding work, a place to live and making it a home.

Although this song starts out more somber, as the song moves on it picks up a more danceable beat with more interesting synthy sounds.

I couldn’t help but be interested in the lyrics for this one with the way they sang “wheat” I had to find out what the rolled r word was.  This led me to see “Land of wheat and barely, grape and olive / fig, pomegranate date and home.”

And then further on:

Where will I stake a home? (You have a tent for now)
Or at least a small shack (along with four other families)
And here I will raise a family (Don’t let them take your daughter)
I’ll find myself a job with an income (either in cleaning or working the earth)
And I will learn the language (Lose the accent)
With time I’ll feel like I belong (Here is not Yemen).

Dang, draw me in with fun music and beautiful voices and then wow me with powerful lyrics.  Well done, A-WA.

[READ: September 3, 2019] Herbert’s Wormhole

We listened to this book on our summer road trip.  When I saw that it was a novel “in cartoons,” I decided to check out the print to see if it was any different as a story.

The cartoons certainly add to it. The drawings are done in a very stylized way (by Rohitash Rao).  The cartoons are indeed very cartoony but that befits a story about squid aliens who wear fake mustaches and toupees.

I’m glad I listened to the audio first because it was fun having the experience of hearing the Australian accents in my head while reading the text.  I’m sure I could have imagined the accents myself, but since Jonathan Davis did such a good job, it was nice having them in place.

The other interesting thing is how much I evidently missed during the listening (if you’re driving you have to pay attention to the world around you as well).  So the book version filled in some details that I clearly missed and a few things made a bit more sense.

The opening is fairly simple: Alex Filby is 11 years old and loves video games.  He is just about to defeat all the aliens in Alien Slayer 2 which is pretty great,.  Except he promised his parents that when he beat the game, he would stop playing video games for the summer and start playing outside.  So when he destroys the final alien, his parents tell him that they have set up a play date with the weird kid next store: Herbert Slewg. (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: July 2019] Herbert’s Wormhole

We listened to this book instead of reading it.  Looking at the online book right now I see that the illustrations are pretty big part of the book (and they are weird and wonderful).  But this audiobook was narrated delightfully by Jonathan Davis.

The story starts with Alex Filby playing a video game.  He is just about to defeat that final alien in AlienSlayer 2.  His parents are watching him and they almost seem more excited than he is.  Why ever would this be?  Well, because he promised them that when he defeated every alien in AlienSlayer 2 that he’d put the video games away, play outside and not ask for another game all summer.  And they were pretty excited for that.

But when they bring him a present he hopes that maybe it’s AlienSlayer 3-D the greatest video game in history with motion sensor suits and a holographic projector.  Could they really be so awesome?  Well, no, instead, they gave him a home made T-shirt that says Alien Slayer.  Isn’t that wonderful?  They also gave him…a child-sized jungle gym. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ALEJANDRO ESCOVEDO-Tiny Desk Concert #834 (March 20, 2019).

I feel like I’ve been hearing Alejandro Escovedo’s name for years, and yet I know very little about him.

I assumed he was a kind of folkie guy.  So I was pretty surprised by the loud sound he brought to the Tiny Desk.  And even more surprised to read

The musician, who once opened for the Sex Pistols … seemed to appreciate the difference between being pelted with spit and debris by punk rock fans and being showered with loving appreciation in the NPR Music office.

Escovedo came  in a leather jacket and a large band.  And even though I thought they were loud, apparently they intended to be louder.  They even started the show with “one for the money, two for the show, three to get ready and four Go Alejandro!”

Escovedo and his backing band known as Don Antonio set up behind the Tiny Desk, their first sounds were blistering loud. That’s when we broke the news: We wouldn’t amplify Alejandro’s voice. We got a slightly sullen look from the band; but despite the toned-down volume, they were all still amped up.

A little research into Escovedo, though shows that he has, indeed, played folkie/alt-country music.  But that his sound has evolved over the years.

Escovedo pulled the three-song set from The Crossing, the most recent chapter in his ongoing odyssey and a typically hard-rocking, literate saga about two teenagers looking for their American Dream of rock and roll and beat poetry.

“Teenage Luggage” opens kind of quiet with one guitar and quiet drums, but soon enough a sax and keyboards are added, then comes some bass and the second saxophone and the roaring lead guitar.  As Escovedo sing/speaks his story.  Then comes the catchy chorus:

You think you know me, you’ll never know me you’re just a bigot with a bad guitar.

By the end, everyone is rocking out with mini solos from Perinelli on saxophone and a raucous guitar solo from Gramentieri

The close quarters of the Tiny Desk allows for a kind of backstage insight into the musical and visual interplay between Escovedo and the veteran Italian band Don Antonio [Antonio Gramentieri: vocals, guitar; Denis Valentini: bass; Matteo Monti: drums; Nicola Peruch: keyboard; Gianni Perinelli: tenor sax; Franz Valtieri: baritone sax]. Lead guitarist Antonio Gramentieri is the perfect foil for Escovedo, who adds a heavy dose of edginess to the sound with his power strumming.

“Something Blue” is slow with a dominant organ sound (reminiscent of Bob Dylan).  It sounds like an old-school rock song and his delivery sounds more than a little like Warren Zevon.

He says that “Sonica USA” goes out to Don since Wayne Kramer from the MC5 played on this.  It has a great raw rock feel with Escovedo’s punky vocals and the chanted chorus of “Sonica USA.”  The soloing section is great with the two saxophones playing on top of Gramentier’s wailing solo.

It’s a really fun garage rocking set.

[READ: Summer 2018] The Long War

I found the first book in this series rather compelling–almost surprisingly so given that it’s not a fast-paced book and, to be honest, not a lot happens.

But it was really well written and the things that do happen are compelling and fascinating.  And I couldn’t wait to read more.

In the first book:

A man creates an invention (The Stepper) which allows one to step into a parallel world that is next to ours.  There are a possibly infinite numbers of parallel worlds in each direction (East or West).  The worlds that are closer to ours are almost identical to our Earth (known as Datum Earth).  The further you go, the greater the differences.  But none of them have experienced humanity before Step Day (aside from earlier hominids).

The main character is Joshua Valienté.  Joshua is a natural “Stepper.”  He doesn’t need the device to Step from one word to the next, nor does he feel the nausea and other side effects that most people feel as they travel.  Most of the book follows his exploits.

The Black corporate has a ship with an entity known as Lobsang who claims that he was a human reincarnated as artificial intelligence.  Joshua is sure that Lobsang is a computer, but Lobsang’s human skills are uncanny.  This ship has managed to Step as an entity, meaning everything in the ship can go with them.  Normally you can only bring what you can carry (aside from metal).

The novel more or less is an exploratory one with Joshua and Lobsang Stepping through millions of Earths.  Not a lot happens, but the novel never grows boring.  The interactions between Joshua and Lobsang are often funny.  And the writers have infused the Earths that they stop in with just enough differences to make each stop strangely compelling (this must be Baxter’s hard science leanings).

At the end of the book, the anti-steppers attempt a massive, deadly protest.

(more…)

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