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Archive for the ‘Mark Siegel’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: ANOTHER SKY-Tiny Desk Concert #942 (February 5, 2020).

I have watched this video many times because I love everything about this band.  I love the unexpectedly intricate guitar, the adventurous bass and complex rhythms, and I love singer Catrin Vincent’s voice.

Drummer Max Doohan open “Brave Face” with really fast hi-hats.  Some very high bass notes (from Naomi Le Dune) and a smooth, slinky guitar (Jack Gilbert) makes the melody as Katrin sings in her unique, deep and clearly accented voice.

After a verse or so, Katrin plays a piano chord while the guitar opens a clean catchy melody.  The  song stops musically for a moment before it kicks back in with some rocking guitars and fast drums.  Despite the rhythmic changes, all the while her vocal style remains unchanged–a great contrast.

There’s so much dynamism in this song.  It builds and builds to a dramatic ending.

There’s intensity and clear intention to the music of Another Sky. I knew that from having seen this London band perform at SXSW. But in the confines of an office, hearing Catrin Vincent’s unique voice, raw and un-amplified, brought it to another level. They came to NPR back in December to perform, opening their Tiny Desk set with a new song, released just this week. “Brave Face” is a window into the uncompromising sound and message of Another Sky, as Catrin sings in her impassioned voice:

“You must put yourself first
believe you will be loved
only you can demand all you deserve
You put on your brave face, now girl.”

This isn’t a message that is easy to punctuate with music, but matching message with music is the strength of Another Sky. You can hear it in the way Jack Gilbert weaves his guitar lines around the haunting vocals, the way the rhythm section sets up a tension with the melody.

“Avalanche” “another song that deals with toxic masculinity, there’s such ferocity, such commitment to the message.”   It opens with guitar harmonics and Katrin singing along on a slow piano melody.  A complex bass line adds some lower notes to the song which teases quiet moments before getting loud again with a nifty guitar solo.  The song once again gets huge before the music cuts out for just some piano and voice.

Before the final song,

Catrin brought some levity in the form of thanks. “I used to work in an infamous thrift shop in London,” she said, “that paid me to sit and watch NPR Tiny Desks on loop, and I used to think, ‘Oh we’ll never get here,’ and we did, so thank you.”

“All Ends” opens with a quiet introduction and more great guitar work.  Once again I love the bass work–chords played at the high end of the neck, along with ringing guitars and Katrin’s voice.

This band is so interesting, I can’t wait to hear more from them.

[READ: February 10, 2020] 5 Worlds Book 2

The story is magical and fairly complicated with a lot of parts.  But the crux is the dire situation on the five worlds.  Moon Yatta is a desert; Salassandra’s animals are all dying; Grimbo(e) is covered in ocean moss and there are water riots on Toki, where the plant people are dying.  The Mon Domani Elder says that they need to light the beacons on the roof.  The other leaders are less convinced of the need for beacons and some are hostile to the idea.

Behind all of the trouble is a creature known as The Mimic–a super nasty fellow that is able to possess people.

At the end of book one our hero, Oona Lee and her friends An Tzu and Jax Amboy were able to light the first beacon.  Lighting the beacon made it rain on Mon Domani for the first time in years.

This book opens with a flashback.  In book one we knew of Oona’s sister, and how she fled just before it was her time to light the beacons.  By the end of the book we saw that she was actively trying to prevent Oona from lighting the beacon.

Master Elon pulls aside a young Jessa Lee and tells her about the Mimic–he is not a legend, he is real and a real threat.  He tells her that the Cobalt Prince wants to destroy the Mimic and only a great sand dancer (and Jessa is the best) can defeat the Mimic.  But just before the lighting is to commence, Elon tells her the true consequence of lighting the beacons (which we don’t hear). (more…)

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nurserySOUNDTRACK: FRANK FAIRFIELD-Tiny Desk Concert #445 (May 29, 2015).

frankFrank Fairfield and friends Tom Marion (who plays mandolin on the third song) and Zac Sokolow (on guitar) play old-timey music (marches, polkas and mountain tunes).  Fairfield plays banjo and plucked cello (and apparently fiddle, although not here).

The first song “Tres Piedras” is an upbeat instrumental.  The second song “I Ain’t A Goin’ To Weep No More” was written by Harry von Tilser whose brother wrote “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

The final song “Campanile De Venecia/Sharpshooters March” has an overwhelming Italian feel (that mandolin, I gather).  I like that Fairfield yells “take it, Tom” so that Marion will play a lengthy mandolin solo on the for the final song.  There’s also a “traditional” Italian melody in the song that I know more from cartoons than elsewhere.

The songs feel like they leaped out of a 78 record (even Fairfield’s voice seems suitably “old” on “Weep” (although it appears that they were up playing late last night so he may not quite be up to par).

This was a fun Tiny Desk by an artist I’d never encounter anywhere else.

[READ: January 21, 2015] Nursery Rhyme Comics

This is a collection of Nursery Rhymes as drawn primarily by First Second artists.

The 50 nursery rhymes includes here are the traditional rhymes which remain unchanged.  So this was an opportunity for these artists to draw interesting visuals to accompany the traditional stories.  Some artists stayed traditional, while others went in a totally new direction.

It was fun to see that while I knew most of the nursery rhymes, there were quite a few that I didn’t know.

I always wanted to get a  collection of nursery rhymes for my kids when they were younger, and I feel like I never got one that would have been as satisfying as this one. (more…)

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sailorSOUNDTRACK: VOIVOD-Angel Rat (1991).

angelSo if you’re Voivod and you have just released a prog rock metal masterpiece, what’s your next step?  Hire Terry Brown, famed producer of the early Rush catalog!  And then try to go somewhat more commercial.  And name your new, commercial album… Angel Rat?

Oh but then—never a good sign—after recording the album, original bassist Blacky left the band.  It’s hard to find out exactly why (personal reasons) but he then went on to form The Holy Body Tattoo Dance Society and to create electroacoustic music.

When this album came out I was very disappointed in it—it is so far from the angular prog rock of Nothingface that I assumed the band had utterly sold out.  I mean, there’s ballad moments on it, there’s hardly any dissonant chords, and most of the songs are simply verse bridge chorus.  The band sounds a lot more commercial (sadly for them, the album tanked).  Listening to it now with fresh ears it actually reminds me a lot of Blue Öyster Cult, especially with Snake’s vocals and the chord structures that Piggy presents.  And since they used Terry Brown  there’s a Rush element as well.  Once I divorce the album from what came before I actually like the album quite a bit.  The songs are remarkably simple (I feel like Piggy could have been playing all the parts himself at the same time), but there’s still enough interesting weirdness that the songs don’t sound boring.  And once you get used to the overproduction and the fact that Snake can sing, there’s some really good stuff here.  Conventional but good.

It starts out pretty heavy with a chugging guitar but soon you notice that Snake is actually singing…nicely.  His voice sounds polished and good.  And then you notice that the guitars are fairly conventional—there’s almost no dissonance. True it is still heavy metal and there’s some slightly obscure chords, but for the most part it’s not all that weird.  Even the guitar solo is a fairly conventional speedy solo. And when the chorus comes in it’s actually quite pretty.  Speaking of pretty, the band photo is one of the more glammed up moments in Voivod’s career and, without being unfair, they are not a terribly pretty band, so this is kind of a funny picture.

“Clouds in My House” is also quite a pretty song, although admittedly the verses are a little dark (with that squeaking guitar solo sound that was popular around that time in heavy metal).  But the chorus is downright upbeat.  There’s a cool section in the middle with a noisy (but very simple) bass popping and a guitar solo over the top of it—it reminds me a lot of Rush in sound).  “The Prow” is the catchiest thing that Voivod has ever done—great sing-along verses and a big chorus.  “Best Regards” has more BÖC simiarlies—the chorus in particular has a very BÖC structure.  There’s also a some great bass on it.  Again, not the complicated bass of previous album, but a great rumbling sound that works very well as a riff while Piggy solos.  “Twin Dummy” is another fast song. This one features some of the stranger lyrics on the album.  Away says that he backed off on some of the concepts for this album and let Snake so his own thing.  So this song seems to be about ventriloquist dummies with the strange opening lyric “Dummy says…”  But the music is fast and furious here—some weird chords and really fast bass.  There’s also some keyboards on this track (pipe organ type sounds) that reminds me of Rush from around this period.

Title track “Angel Rat” sees Snake crooning over a very simple guitar ballad intro.  It’s almost unthinkable.  And yet the band keeps it interesting—especially Blacky’s bass.  Again, I don’t know why he left, but his bass is featured nicely on this album anyhow.  Blacky opens “Golem” with a powerful (but again simple) bass.  There’s an occasional funky note, but it’s a very staccato song. The drums have a strangely pop quality (the way he fills in the gaps).  It’s a little unsettling how obvious and catchy it is.  And even more unsettling is the solo—which has a very jazz feel.  I can’t even really tell what’s going on—is that Piggy or a keyboard?  “The Outcast” has probably the most conventional early 90s metal sound (except…is that a harmonica?)  Snake even does a falsetto at the end of a verse!  Probably the biggest surprise is that the final lines are “everything’s gonna work out.”

“Nuage Fractal” at least has a very Voivod title.  And the chorus sounds a lot like recent Voivod (except for the solo section).  The biggest surprise has to be “Freedoom” which opens with a very pretty guitar ballad sequence.  Something that early Voivod would have stomped all over.  Snake is whisper-singing and Piggy is playing gently for two whole minutes.  Interestingly, once the full band kicks in for the last two minutes, it is one of the heaviest sections on the album.  So even when they’re being conventional, they can’t do it for too long.  The bass in particular sounds very Geddy Lee to me on this track.  The final song “None of the Above” Is another political song—this one about global destruction.  The music is surprisingly upbeat for such a topic, but Blacky’s bass is wonderfully deep and rumbling here.

So yes, ever the chameleons, Voivod have made an album that could have sold a lot of copies–except that they’re a little too weird to do so.  But it was a good experiment and resulted in some great songs.

[READ: August 15, 2013] Sailor Twain

Sarah got me this book for Christmas.  I didn’t read it until right now because it’s fun to stretch out Christmas gifts as long as possible.

This book is a lengthy graphic novel from our friends at First Second.  It is complicated and a little confusing (the whole story is a flashback that is sort of explained in the very beginning).  It’s also very beautiful.

Except, I might say, for the main character. The background images and the interstitial pages are really beautiful and detailed.  But the main character is very cartoony–very two-dimensional with a triangle nose and big circular cartoon eyes.  I found this very disconcerting for about a third of the book.  Siegel does manage to make him very expressive and uses the big circle eyes to a good drawing benefit through, but the character just looks so–surprised?–all the time that it was hard to not notice him.  Of course later on his big eyes come in handy during the darker sequences, but I still found it an odd choice.  So too were the really cartoony choices of some of the other main characters–very big, comical noses or fat round faces.  It certainly made the characters distinctive, but as I said, I was unsettled by it.

As the story opens, Captain Twain sits in a bar and is approached by Miss Camomille.  She asks to speak to him but he says he wants nothing to do with her or his past.  She holds out a necklace and says he can have it if he tells her the story.  He is shocked to see it and reluctantly agrees. (more…)

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