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SOUNDTRACK: ACTIVE CHILD-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #131 (January 6, 2021).

Active Child has been around a long time, although I was completely unfamiliar with him.

Active Child is the music of Patrick Grossi. … He layers his choral-styled voice on top of melodic harp and piano. Electronic beats propel selections from his latest album, In Another Life, as well as one of his earliest and well-known songs, “Hanging On.”

He opens with “Hanging On.”  A drumbeat begins along with his high soaring voice.  As the camera fades in, he is playing the harp.  As he samples and loops himself, he switches to piano to play the main verse.  Then the loop starts and the room fills with music.  It’s pretty neat to watch him jump from piano to harp and again for a solo.

From a stunning room overlooking the San Gabriel Mountains in Pasadena, Calif., we hear the ethereal sounds of Active Child. “I chose this space, as this is where I’ve written nearly every piece of music for my active child project. my music and this house / this view are completely intertwined.”

As he’s talking, the drm for “In Another Life” begins.  I couldn’t see how he triggered it at all.  Over a drum beat and harp, he sings an ethereal melody.  When he switches to the piano his voice loops in a nice harmony.

There’s a very slow fade from one scene to the other as he begins “Cruel World.”  He starts looping and harmonizing with himself.  This is the catchiest of the three mostly from all of the looping.

[READ: January 6, 2021] Days of Our Lockdown Lives

In addition to the Zapiro book of editorial cartoons, we also got a comic strip collection from Stephen Francis and Rico (Schacherl).  This was a book in the Madam & Eve comic strip series.  There are thirty plus collections and this is the most recent.

Madam & Eve is a daily comic strip syndicated in many South African newspapers.  It started in 1992 and went daily in 1993. The premise is based around a middle-class white woman, Gwen Anderson (“Madam”), and her black maid, Eve Sisulu and how they manage in the new South Africa as the Apartheid era drew to a close.

Theirs is a relationship of affectionate squabbling.  Perhaps in the spirit of equality, neither character is portrayed as particularly sympathetic. Madam is always coming up with silly ideas in order to fit in more with the new way of life. Eve meanwhile keeps coming up with ways of obtaining extra cash out of Madam and others.

There is also a lot of political humor with strips mentioning topical incidents and also featuring some of the political figures in the news–so the Zapiro book is a nice companion. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DUA LIPA-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #121 (December 4, 2020).

I first encountered Dua Lipa a few years ago when I was watching the NPR series Field Recordings.  It showed Dupa Lipa in 2016 singing a song from a balcony.  An accompanying essay said that she was hoping to “break America.”  I said I thought her song was fine.

I guess she has now broken America as she was on lots of best of lists this year (and the blurb lists her as a “global megastar.”

I haven’t actually heard anything from this album (or any of her albums–oh, she only has two), so this is really my introduction to her.

Of Kosovar Albanian descent, Dua Lipa was raised in the UK and rose to super stardom in the three years since her eponymous debut album dropped in 2017.

The band gets a remarkably full sound for having just a bass (Matthew Carroll) and a guitar (Alex Lanyon).  Even when Lanyon solos, the recording is robust.

I do find it strange that she has FOUR backing singers, though (Naomi Scarlett, Ciara O’Connor, Izzy Chase, and Matthew Allen).  I can’t hear that any of them are doing anything different than the others, making me thing two or even one would suffice, but whatever, it’s good to give musicians a job, right.

And, this is the first time she has been able

to reconnect with her band for their only performance since their tour in support of her sophomore album, Future Nostalgia, was cancelled in March. This vibrant four song set of dance hits, all from Future Nostalgia, will surely have you cutting up the floor in your kitchen while quarantining in the cold weather.

All four of these songs are enjoyable but pretty forgettable.  Even though You can sing along by the end of the song, it’s not likely you’ll be humming them an hour later.

“Levitating” has a fun descending vocal melody and a funky bass line.  I do rather like th emiddle “rapped” section because I like hearing Lipa’s accent as she says her London o’s in

My love is like a rocket, watch it blast-off
And I’m feeling so electric, dance my ass off

“Pretty Please” is a fun dancer. “Love Again” has a lovely full guitar introduction.  And the refrain of “God damn, you got me in love again,” is quite arresting.

“Don’t Start Now” has a cool funky bass line and a catchy chorus–definitely fun to dance along to.

[READ: January 2, 2021] “Our Lady of the Quarry”

This story is written in second person plural (and translated by Megan McDowell).

A group of younger (16 year old) girls are jealous of an older girl, Silvia.  Silvia has a place of her own, a job with a salary, and a know-it-all attitude:

If one of us discovered Frida Kahlo, oh, Silvia had already visited Frida’s house with her cousin in Mexico.

Silvia’s hair was perfectly dyed, she always had money and, worst of all, Diego liked her. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KEM: Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #115 (November 23, 2020).

I have never heard of KEM, so it’s a surprise to see that he’s been recording for almost 20 years.

KEM’s Tiny Desk performance is light, welcoming and beautifully decorated. So is his music.  After almost 20 years of recording R&B hits … he still comforts my soul with his sultry voice and simple, yet satisfying melodies.

That summary is really apt.  These songs are light and simple.

He plays three songs from his latest album.

The first, “Friend Today,” has KEM accompanied by Michael “Nomad” Ripoll on acoustic guitar.  The song

poignantly articulates a love for our fellow humans: “There’s a roll like thunder / They killing our babies, Lord / They headed straight for the border / And we can no longer ignore it.”

About “Not Before You,” KEM says the recording is a demo vocal because he never got around to doing a real vocal so [logic leap here] this song is very special.  I assume he means it is special because it is

a classic romantic love song, as a dedication to his wife, Erica.

Kem adds programming and a deep resonating bass to the guitar backdrop.

For the final song, “Lonely” KEM brought out the “heavy artillery,” David McMurray on saxophone. The song ends the set

with an upbeat, hopeful vibe: “There’s a life waiting for you / In your brokenness.” It’s an affirmation that personal struggles can end in true happiness.

I don’t enjoy a lot of contemporary R&B, but I liked the understatedness of this set.

[READ: November 20, 2020] Ireland Through Birds

I saw this book at work and thought I’d bring it home to read it.  I wasn’t sure if I’d read the whole thing, but once I started, I couldn’t put it down.

O’Brien is a bird lover (he should hook up with Jonathan Franzen for a joint tour/book).  He grew up loving birds and has seen many of them.  He decided to look for these twelve bucket-list birds for an Irish birdwatcher.

These dozen birds tend to be shy and wary or highly localized.  And unfortunately

Some need very specific conditions in which to flourish, conditions now found in only a few protected pockets across Ireland.  Some are endangered–and still declining.

So in addition to talking about the birds, O’Brien is here to talk about nature: what we have done to it and what we can do for it.

For those of us not in Ireland, a map is helpful just to know where he is.  So I’ve added one to the bottom of the page. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KURSTIN x GROHL-“Frustrated” (The Hanukkah Sessions: Night Seventh” December 16, 2020).

   Producer Greg Kurstin (who I have not heard of) and Dave Grohl (who I have) decided that, rather than releasing a Christmas song this year, they would record eight covers of songs by Jewish artists and release them one each night for Hanukkah.

“With all the mishegas of 2020, @GregKurstin and I were kibbitzing about how we could make Hannukah extra-special this year. Festival of Lights?! How about a festival of tasty LICKS! So hold on to your tuchuses… We’ve got something special coming for your shayna punims. L’chaim!!”

The seventh night is a song from a band who, to most people’s knowledge only ever released one song. I know I have certainly never heard this song from The Knack before.

Tonight we’re featuring 4 nice Jewish boys whose biggest hit was a song about a nice Jewish girl… “My Shalom-a” or something like that… We’re huge fans of New Wave (as well as the “old wave” that came after Moses parted the Red Sea)…so we were psyched to get to cover one of our favorites…The Knack!

The Knack put out three albums from 1979-1981, then three more in the late 90s-2000s.  And yet the only song they ever released is “My Sharona,” right?

“Frustrated” is a pretty simple late 70s new wave song.  Catchy (but not super catchy).  Kurstin plays the keyboards and it sounds pretty new wavey.  He also rips a pretty good solo.

Grohl plays drums and sings.  The drums are pretty simple although I like that the verses alternate between snare and tom dominance. I don’t know how close he comes to the original voice but the (inserted video) harmony vocal i quite lovely.

It’s nice that they chose something other than the obvious hit, although the obvious hit is a hit for a reason.

[READ: December 17, 2020] “Ersatz Panda”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my fifth time reading the Calendar.  I didn’t know about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh), but each year since has been very enjoyable.  Here’s what they say this year

You know the drill by now. The 2020 Short Story Advent Calendar is a deluxe box set of individually bound short stories from some of the best writers in North America.

This year’s slipcase is a thing of beauty, too, with electric-yellow lining and spot-glossed lettering. It also comes wrapped in two rubber bands to keep those booklets snug in their beds.

As always, each story is a surprise, so you won’t know what you’re getting until you crack the seal every morning starting December 1. Once you’ve read that day’s story, check back here to read an exclusive interview with the author.

It’s December 17. Lucy Ives, author of Loudermilk, has a nickname for every cat she’s ever met. [Click the link to the H&O extras for the story].

I really enjoyed the way this seven-part story began.  In a store there is a cat.  It is black and white.  Its name is Panda.  The narrator sends videos of Panda being cute to her feed.

Then one day the woman goes to the store and Panda has been replaced by another cat.  It’s also black and white but looks nothing like Panda.  This one is also loud and hairy.  The owner says that someone took Panda and replaced her with this cat.  A friend calls it “Ersatz Panda.”  The narrator decides she can’t go back to that store.

She goes to a new store.  They also have a cat.  This one is orange.  It’s name is K.C. for Kitty Cat.  K.C disappeared for a while, but she came back.

But then Part 2 shifts gears.  It comments on what we have just read: “narration is the act of organizing discrete events into a series.”  The narrator defines ersatz and says that ersatz is a beautiful word. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KINGFISH-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #99 (October 20, 2020).

Christone “Kingfish” Ingram is an amazing guitarist.  He is clearly a blues prodigy.  He was in his teens when he first came on the scene and is only 21 in this video (so it is funny that he has been singing about drinking Johnnie Walker Red for the past few years).

“Fresh Out” is a pretty classic blues–a simple riff, lyrics about being fresh out of everything, and some wicked, wicked soloing.

“Outside of This Town” is a song I’ve heard on the radio a lot.  When I first heard the song, I assumed he was an old blues man with a comeback record.  So it was really quite a surprise to find out he was 18 or 19.  For this Tiny Desk Concert, he’s accompanied by Paul Rogers on bass.  On this one, Rogers bass feels a bit more prominent, probably because Kingfish is really rocking out on the solo–some great hammering, he must have really powerful fingers.

“Listen” is a very difference song–a gentle ballad kind of song with pretty guitars and showcasing his voice, which is really soothing.  There’s not even a guitar solo in this one.

“Rock & Roll” is dedicated to his late mom.  It’s another mellow song, very pretty and catchy as well.

I had known that Kingfish was an amazing guitarist, but this set shows off more of what he can do and that he’s more than just a young bluesman..

[READ: December 2, 2020] “Aviary”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my fifth time reading the Calendar.  I didn’t know about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh), but each year since has been very enjoyable.  Here’s what they say this year

You know the drill by now. The 2020 Short Story Advent Calendar is a deluxe box set of individually bound short stories from some of the best writers in North America.

This year’s slipcase is a thing of beauty, too, with electric-yellow lining and spot-glossed lettering. It also comes wrapped in two rubber bands to keep those booklets snug in their beds.

As always, each story is a surprise, so you won’t know what you’re getting until you crack the seal every morning starting December 1. Once you’ve read that day’s story, check back here to read an exclusive interview with the author.

It’s December 2. Lysley Tenorio, author of The Son of Good Fortune, will catch up with you at the food court.  [Click the link to the H&O extras for the story].

This story is written in first person plural and is set in the Greenbrook Mall in Manila.

It opens with a group of kids going to Alejandro’s home.  He is the only person they know with the internet (or even electricity). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: GRACIE AND RACHEL-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #98 (October 19, 2020).

I only know Gracie and Rachel from a previous Tiny Desk Concert.  I was entranced by that performance and am similarly entranced by this one.

Gracie and Rachel are perfect musical mates. Their styles conjure contrast, with Gracie Coates’ more pop-leaning keyboard melodies alongside Rachel Ruggles’ classical background. They’ve been honing their orchestral pop sound since high school. These days they share space in a NYC apartment and are grateful to be able to “commute from their bedrooms” at a time when so many collaborators can’t be together.

They open with “Strangers.”  Gracie plays the keyboards and sings lead with a wonderfully breathy voice.  Rachel plays the violin and then starts adding in percussion and singing higher (sometime haunting) backing vocals.

They’ve just released their second album, Hello Weakness, You Make Me Strong. The title of the album reflects their positive attitude despite angst.  The duo made much of this music in the past year and a half, in the very room they’re performing this Tiny Desk (home) concert

On “Ideas,” they sing together a classical melody with a tinge of autotune.  Then the song shifts to the delicacy of Gracie’s keys and Rachel’s pizzicato violin.

The lyrics to “Ideas” highlights that attitude by encouraging us to dig inside ourselves and discover our creative spirit” “So take your little ideas / Make them a little bit stronger / Throw out the ones you can’t / You don’t need them any longer.”

When the drums come in they are deep and heavy and there’s a very cool bass slide (triggered by Rachel on the SPD-SX sampling pad).  I love the highs and lows of this song.

“Sidelines” features Rachel playing the drums live (on the sampling pad with mallets) while Gracie sings and plays the keyboard melody.  For the bridge, their voices intertwine in a lovely way, weaving in and out of each others melodies.  Then Rachel picks up the violin and adds some more lovely pizzicato to the song.  When she adds her soaring backing vocals its really quite angelic.

“Underneath” is a song about getting underneath ourselves. Rachel plays squeaky, haunting violin melodies to accompany the keys.  There are several parts to this song and I love the way they sound so different–from the strummed violin in the bridge to the rising vocal line of the chorus.

These songs are definitely poppy but they have an unusual sensibility that must come from Rachel’s classical ideas.  The songs are really wonderful and I’m curious what they sound like when fully fleshed out on record.

[READ: December 1, 2020] “Over the Plum-Pudding”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my fifth time reading the Calendar.  I didn’t know about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh), but each year since has been very enjoyable.  Here’s what they say this year

You know the drill by now. The 2020 Short Story Advent Calendar is a deluxe box set of individually bound short stories from some of the best writers in North America.

This year’s slipcase is a thing of beauty, too, with electric-yellow lining and spot-glossed lettering. It also comes wrapped in two rubber bands to keep those booklets snug in their beds.

As always, each story is a surprise, so you won’t know what you’re getting until you crack the seal every morning starting December 1. Once you’ve read that day’s story, check back here to read an exclusive interview with the author.

It’s December 1. To officially kick off the 2020 Short Story Advent Calendar, here’s a story about truth, fiction, and characters who can’t tell the difference from the late author and humourist John Kendrick Bangs.  [Click the link to the H&O extras for the story].

This story contains some parodies of other writers and uses them as an excuse for why the editor’s own Christmas collection did not get published on time.

It opens with a note from Horace Wilkinson, the editor at Hawkins, Wilkes & Speedway Publishing.  He sets out to explain why the advertised Christmas book “Over the Plum-Pudding or, Tales Told Under the Mistletoe, by Sundry Tattlers” was never published.  He has been getting questions from the authors who were supposed to be paid for their work when the collection was published.  He wants to publicly set the record straight.

Right off the bat, he places the blame entirely on the shoulders of Rudyard Kipling.  This made me chuckle. (more…)

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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.”) (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BORIS-tears e.p. (2019).

Boris tends toward being a very heavy band.  Their two recently albums D.E.A.R. and NO are some intense heavy metal.  They also do a lot of noise and heavy drone.  But they are not afraid of melody.  And they are not at all afraid to make pretty, dancey music.

There are five songs.  The first song “どうしてもあなたをゆるせない (doushitemoanataoyurusenai)” is on the disc twice.  The first version of this song is a remix by Narasaki under his name “Sadesper.”  It opens with a grooving bass line and some pretty guitars.  The drums are metronomic and there’s a sprinkling of keys.  I’m not sure who sings, but there’s a lot of falsetto. I love how just before the chorus there’s some orchestra hits.  It’s pretty much a full on dance song and it suits them perfectly.  You’d never guess it was Boris, but it makes sense once you realize it.  It even ends with a nifty guitar solo that sadly fades out.

“u fu fu” opens with a fast simple guitar chugging riff.  After a good ol’ “Whoo!” from Atsuo, the song pulses forward on the insistent grunted  “ooh ah” that works as a foundation to the song.  There’s a lots of great backing vocals in each ear. With about a minute to go, the bass takes over with a fast, heavy rumble before the harmonizing vocals kick in.

Up next is a fantastic cover of a Coaltar of the Deepers song “To the Beach.”  I didn’t know Coaltar of the Deepers before this release, but I have listened to them a bunch since and they are a terrific Japanese band unknown in the States.  I’m not sure how much this differs from the original , but this version is fantastic–slow and moody with lots of build and release.  The song starts with a pretty guitar melody and then a series of crashing chords and cymbals while Wata’s guitar soars.  The verses are slow with a whispered vocal.  But the choruses resume the crashing chords to punctuate things perfectly.  In the middle of the song as the vocals overlap and blend, it sounds magnificent.

“Peaches” comes next, it’s a 2 minute song sung by Wata.  A pulsing bass line propels the song forward as Wata chants the the word “peaches” over and over with an occasional “la la la” fleshes things out.  A repeating piano is added for a bit and then a shift to a kind o funky bass line that leads to the end of the songs.  It’s only two minutes long and kind of goofy but I wish it was longer.

The disc ends with an instrumental version of “どうしてもあなたをゆるせない.”  The song is so catchy and wonderful that hearing it a second time in the EP is a great thing.  It’s one of the few instrumentals that I think might sound better than the original because you can really hear what the musicians are doing–and its some great stuff.

[READ: October 29, 2020] The Ten Loves of Nishino

I have a stack of books waist high next to my desk which I intend to read.  And yet, I continue to find new (to me) books that I jump in and read first.  This book was recommended by the most recent Tiny Desk Contest winner Linda Diaz.  Why on earth would I read a book recommended by a person I’d never heard of before?  She said it was her favorite book ever (which seems weird since it only came out in English last year, but whatever).  It was also pretty short.  So I decided to check it out.

I have enjoyed many of the Japanese writers that I’ve read, so I was intrigued to read a contemporary female author (this book was translated by Allison Markin Powell).

So this book is written in ten chapters–each one written by a lover of Nishino, an enigmatic figure whom we only learn about from the women writing about him.

There is something strangely seductive about Nishino that these women find hard to resist.  He is aloof and puzzling, but that seems to make women want him even more.  But he is perpetually with women (more than these ten, it would appear). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BORIS-“warpath” (2015).

Back in 2015, Boris released three albums on the same day all under the “new noise literacy” banner: “urban dance” “warpath” and “asia” [according to their label numbers, this is the order they go in].

All three records are experiments in abrasive noise.  Despite the adorable child on the covers, these records will scare children.

This album has four songs, all of which are variations on drone.

“Midgard Schlange” is 11 minutes of heavy distorted chords played slowly, as they ring out and rumble.  Its a a sort of seven-note melody but stretched out impossibly long.  At around 5 and a half minutes the electronics start to fade in from far away.  The first time I listened to the song I thought an airplane was flying overhead as these sounds came in.  These sounds eventually resolve into chords that acts as a kind of counterpoint to the guitar drones. It’s relatively fast tempoed for a drone song, but it still long and stretched out.

“Behind the Owl” continues the drone, but in a different way. There aren’t pummeling guitar chords that ring out.  Rather, they are just quietly building distortion waves, pulsing in and out.  It’s rather understated, a low menace that seems to cycle slowly between two notes.

The wonderfully named “Dreamy Eyed Panjandrum”starts with a kind of staticky electronic pulsing with occasional glitchy percussion sounds.  It sounds like somebody doing light construction for about 8 minutes.

The guitars come back on “Voo-vah,” and ominous ten and a half minutes of dark rumbling.  This time, the guitars are low and ringing, with waves of pulsing bass and stretched out chords. Around 8 minutes some higher-pitched notes come in, almost sounding like ghosts in the night.  Closing credits to a nightmare.

The album is credited to: takeshi: guitar, bass / wata: guitar & echo / atsuo: electronics.

[READ: November 5, 2020] “Sitting with the Dead”

I really enjoyed the way this story revealed its details.

It begins with an old, sickly man asking to go out to his barn. It was winter and he wore only his pajamas and a winter coat.  A week later, the doctor assured his wife Emily that that’s not what killed him–it didn’t even hasten the inevitable.

At half past seven on the day he died, the Geraghty sisters knocked on her door.  They were two middle-aged women who sat with the dying.  They were known in the area although Emily didn’t know them personally.  They had heard that her husband was dying and they came to sit with him, but they were too late.

Emily laughed to herself at how much he would not have wanted these two there to sit wit him.  He was not religious and he would have said that their sitting with him had an ulterior motive. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BORIS-“asia” (2015).

Back in 2015, Boris released three albums on the same day all under the “new noise literacy” banner: “urban dance” “warpath” and “asia” [according to their label numbers, this is the order they go in, but I’m posting them out of sequence].

All three records are experiments in abrasive noise.  Despite the adorable child on the covers, these records will scare children.

This album has three songs.

“Terracotta Warrior” Runs for 20:38.  It opens with quiet, slow rumbling–almost inaudible for the first 30 seconds or so.  Then the pulsing sounds start bubbling up under a hissing, mechanical sound.  Around seven minutes the rumble stays pretty steady, but the higher noises–hissing, clanging, horror movie sounds, start to grow more intense.  At 8 minutes, some discernible guitar chords ring out (heavily distorted, but clearly guitars).  It turns into a lengthy drone with squeaky feedback noises throughout.  At 17 and a half minutes the feedback gets louder and louder until it abruptly cuts off and after moment of silence distance guitars start ringing out again.  There’s even the first sign of drums (a gentle hi-hat).

“Ant Hill” is half as long, but similar is tone.  It is primarily pulsing electronics and high pitched squealing electronic manipulation.  There’s also some digital glitching sounds. After 8 minutes the song fades to a pause only to resume a few seconds later with some more digital glitching and manipulation.  With 30 seconds to go, a drum beat comes in and the distortion takes on a more melodic sound including what sounds like someone sawing in the distance.

“Talkative Lord vs Silent Master” is also ten minutes long and it is the most unpleasant of the three songs.  It is full on static and noise with what sounds like a monstrous voice growling in the distance.  By the end of the song it sounds like being in the middle of a howling winter storm.  And as it closes up there is some serious digital glitching.  Not for the sensitive of hearing.

The album is credited to: takeshi: guitar & bass / wata: guitar & echo / atsuo: drums & electronics.

[READ: January 19, 2017] “The Very Rigid Search”

Jonathan Safran Foer has become something of a more serious writer over the last few years, so I’m alway happy to read one of his earlier funnier works (himm, that sounds familiar).

This story is written from the point of view of a Ukrainian tour guide named Alexander Perchov.  He is writing this tale in English, although his English is slightly off (as the title hints at).  He speaks very good English, but his word choices often eschew idioms for literal translation (and much hilarity ensues).

Alex’s family own a Ukrainian branch of an international travel agency and it is his job to pick up and translator for an American traveller.

Alex refers to the traveler as the “hero” of the story.  And the hero’s name is Jonathan Safran Foer.

Jonathan Safran Foer is not having shit between his brains  He is an ingenious Jew.

JSF was travelling from New York to Lutsk. (more…)

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