Archive for the ‘Dave McKean’ Category

flinchSOUNDTRACK: HAUSCHKA-“Improvisation,” “Random Gifts” and “Mt. Hood” in the NPR studios (2010).

hausckaHauschka is German composer Volker Bertelmann and he plays the prepared piano.  What that means is that he places things on and in the piano to alter the sound of it.  (Nothing he does creates any permanent damage).

Mostly he creates percussive sounds with things like bottle caps,Tic Tac boxes and skewers.  And while it sounds simple, it is really quite ingenious.

This Vimeo link shows him talking to Guy Raz at NPR about the random materials that Raz has given him and then demonstrating how they change the sound of things.  Then he plays the “Random Gifts.”

The Youtube Video below shows another improv piece from the same day using different items.

This Vimeo link to him playing “Mt. Hood” shows off his use of ping pong balls.

All of his songs are fairly simple and fairly slow, primarily because the preparations add resonances and percussion that would overwhelm if he played faster.  Thus his pieces are often moody and reflective

Hauschka has a new album out as of this month called Abandoned City.  Every track on the new CD is named after a city that has been abandoned, that is vacant.  And his spare oftentimes eerie music goes very well with that theme.

There’s lots more videos of him on YouTube which are worth checking out.

[READ: June 23, 2014] Flinch

I was grabbed by the cover of this graphic novel.  The book is so short that I was really surprised to see that it was actually a collection of short stories.  As you can tell from the subtitle, this work is going to be dark and more than a little creepy.  And it is.  And while there are some similar visual styles, it’s interesting to see just how different these 13 stories can be.  Most of the stories use very few words, relying instead on the power of the visuals.  And it works pretty well.

I didn’t think any of them were especially creepy or dark, although the first one is kinda gross.  I enjoyed them for what they were, short stories that revel in the darker side of life.  I hadn’t heard of most of the artists.  The only one I knew was Shaun Tan. (more…)

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celluloidSOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Group Of Seven Live, Ottawa, ON (October 21 1995).

vesely This concert, available from Rheostatics Live, is a recording of the band playing their Music Inspired by the Group of 7 live.  I’m not sure how many of these shows there were, or even if this is the show in its entirety (it seems like it, but there’s no intro, and maybe there was more after the set?).

At any rate, the Group of 7 album is almost entirely instrumental–scored music that is certainly rock, but quite different from typical Rheostatics fare.   In this live setting, we have piano,  upright (and bowed) bass and cello.  And yet it is distinctly Rheostatics.  Band friend (and Barenaked Lady) Kevin Hearn plays piano (he joins them on many of their live shows) as he helped them compose the original soundtrack.

The band doesn’t say much during the set.  In fact, they don’t talk at all until the half way point, when Bidini introduces everyone and talks about how they came to write this music.  He talks about crossing Canada and is generally a jovial fellow.  And then he talks about the reworking of “Northern Wish.”

The Group of 7 album is probably my least favorite Rheostatics album because it is basically a score (I do like it, and think it’s a great audialization of the Group of 7, but it’s not like their proper albums).  And there are some beautiful songs here.  One of the most interesting is “Boxcar Song,” which has a great riff.  It also includes the reworking of “Northern Wish.”

Incidentally the album’s tracks are just listed as one through twelve, but they have gained names from live shows.  And they don’t match up exactly with the album in this concert setting, as this makes it seem that the final song is the long waltz, which it isn’t.

Anyhow, this download isn’t a top ten.  Unless you really like the CD, in which case this is a must hear.  The show includes the samples from the album and a bunch of very interesting takes on the songs.

For a brief news story on the collaboration, check out this from CBC’s The National from 1996.

and part two

[READ: February 2, 2014] Celluloid

I actually assumed this was a new title, as it just came across my desk the other day, but I see that it is three years old.  I’ve always admired McKean’s work, which I think is grotesquely beautiful.  His characters always seem somewhat pained, and the angles of his lines are often harsh.  So I was really unsure what to expect in an “erotic” story from him.

The fact that one of the first few pages states that this book is not to be sold to anyone under the age of 18 should let you know that by erotic, they mean explicit. (I did notice that the caveat was buried a few pages in, though).  And, indeed it is.  Far more than I imagined it would be. (more…)

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mbws SOUNDTRACK: MARC ALMOND-“Glorious” (2001).

gloriousAll the time that I had been seeing David Almond’s name I had been thinking of Marc Almond.  I don’t know how common a name Almond is, but it doesn’t seem unreasonable to think that it is not a very common name.  Or to think that a singer might  become a writer.  However, looking at photos of David, it is clear that he is not Marc.

I knew that Marc Almond was the singer in Soft Cell (you know, “Tainted Love”–which I didn’t realize was a cover), but I haven’t followed him at all since then.  His name has cropped up on songs from time to time, so i knew he was still singing and that he sounded mostly the same (a bit more glammy).  When I did a search I found this utterly fascinating video.

Almond has always had a strong, powerful voice.  And as his solo career has moved along it seems to have gotten even more operatic.  He can hold long notes and he can really belt those notes out.

“Glorious” is no exception, with the chorus being a big anthem.  What’s interesting is that the verses which are fairly simple keyboard notes have a slightly minor chord feel to them giving the verses a vaguely sinister feel.  I don’t know if that’s intentional (I feel not given the big chorus, but I sense it).  Despite all of the bigness and the disco ball video, this song is surprisingly not that catchy.  It certainly has a fun chorus, but the music itself is not instantly hummable.

But I have to respect Marc for that elaborate costume.

[READ: September 29, 2013] Mouse Bird Snake Wolf

I’ve known David Almond for a while but I’ve never seen his children’s books before.  I got this mainly for McKean’s art, which is as weirdly beautiful as ever.

Almond has apparently written a few children’s books and I rather assume that they are all kind of dark and “older” like this one.

The story starts in a world long ago and far away with three children, the eldest Harry, the middle one Susan, and the young one Ben.  There were marvelous things in the world but the children felt that there were gaps–things missing.

Then we see the gods (I love that the world below is in vibrant color and the gods are in shades of gray).  The gods were so pleased with all of things they had created (and they were indeed wonderful) that they basically sat around on their clouds praising themselves, drinking tea and eating cakes.

But the children are unhappy with things–there’s too many unsettling empty spaces.  They shout their concerns, but the gods ignore them. Then, one by one, the children begin imagining things that ought to be there. (more…)

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stinkThe Replacements followed their shambolic Sorry Ma, with this little EP.  8 songs in 14 minutes.  If you were going to check out one of these two releases, this is the one to get.  If for no other reason than at 14 minutes it certainly doesn’t overstay its welcome.

And song-wise, this album is pretty amazing.  The first track, “Kids Don’t Follow” opens with a live recording of the Minneapolis police breaking up a party.  Not sure if this was a band party or not, but the Replacements had to change their name from The Impediments because they got banned from a local club because they were too drunk and disorderly.

But even though this album has all the trapping of a hardcore record (check out the sleeve design, and, of course, the name of the EP).  And look at these song titles: they’re almost a parody of punk attitudes: “Fuck School,” “White and Lazy,” “God Damn Job,” “Dope Smokin’ Moron.”  Once again, the band plays fast, but not terribly angry songs.  Rather than being angry ragers, the band sounds more like drunken teenagers.  And so the chorus  of “God Damn Job” stays with you so and wind up singing the infectious but inappropriate to sing in public “Gaaahhhhhd Damnit.  Gaaaaaaahhhhhhhd Damnit. God Damn!”

It’s only White and Lazy that features anything like the hardcore trappings the album suggests.  The opening of the song is almost folksy, but when they hit the 90- second mark they bust out a true hardcore section: speed, shouty lyrics and more speed.   It’s very cathartic.

But best of all, Stink features “Go” the first song by Westerberg that is truly awesome.  It’s slower than the rest, and features a great chorus with a cool screaming guitar.  Over his career, Westerberg would writes some amazing anthems, and this is the first.

Although this isn’t their final raucous record, future records will drift from this attitude.  And this condenses their stuff into 15 minutes.  The whole album sounds like it will fall apart before they finish it, but finish it they do.

[READ: June 6, 2009] The Graveyard Book

Sarah gave me this book for my birthday, with an exciting IOU: that she would get Neil Gaiman to sign my copy when she meets him at ALA this summer.  So I got that going for me.  Which is nice.

I’ve been a fan of Gaiman’s for years.  And yes, Gaiman’s Sandman was what got me interested in comics, so thanks Neil.  Plus, as a Tori Amos fan, you pretty much have to love Neil, as their symbiotic relationship goes back almost twenty years now.

Having said all of that I haven’t followed his post comics career all that closely.  I read American Gods, but I don’t recall all that much about it.  My brother-in-law Tim tells me that it’s amazing, so I will likely go back and read it again someday.

So, what about this book, anyhow.

There’s a chapter of this story available in his M is for Magic collection.  Interestingly in the introduction, he notes that, it’s Chapter 4 which he wrote first.  Huh.  So, it seemed familiar to me when I started reading it although it didn’t seem totally familiar until I got to Chapter 4. (more…)

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