Archive for the ‘Alexandra Kleeman’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: Æ MAK-“We Have It Right Here” (2020).

Æ MAK is Aoife McCann.  She creates a fascinating tapestry of music.  It feels classical and operatic and yet also feels very electronic and oddly poppy.

This song begins with muted xylophones -sounding electronic tones playing a pretty melody (which reminds me of Björk).

McCann’s voice comes in and lilts and flutters almost bird-like. She sings in English but with interesting emphases on words.

Her vocal delivery and melodies conjure Regina Spektor.

About halfway through the, until now entirely electronic song, adds some soft acoustic guitar and gentle bells.

The second chorus is almost all voice with simple percussion and a kind of Kate Bush vocal trill.

The electronics come back in and suddenly start getting fuller and louder–filling up your headspace with sounds as her voice echoes itself and adds other lines before building to a remarkably catchy ending.

There’s so much going on in this song even though it often feels very minimal.

And wait until you see her on stage.

[READ: September 21, 2020] On Contemporary Art

I have enjoyed Aira’s novels and was intrigued by this short essay about Contemporary Art.

The entire book is 60 pages and it includes and Foreword and an Afterword.  That jibes with the premise of the imprint itself.  Ekphrasis Press reprints works about visual art that are not meant to be academic in nature–but compelling as prose.

In the Foreword Will Chancellor, talks about how language can throw you off.  He recalls bring a child and seeing the Objects in the Mirror are Closer Than They Appear warning.  He wondered how objects and their appearances could diverge.  He continues that Aira suggests this gap between appearance and reality might be the origin of cotemporary art.


The main body of the book is Aira’s essay, translated by Katherine Silver.

He starts by saying he is a writer who looks for inspiration in painting.  He says that cave painters painted facts, but it took a person relating the adventure, the storyteller, to make the episode come alive.

As a lover of art, he subscribes to many art magazines, namechecking Artforum, Art in America, Flash Art, Frieze, art press and more.  He says the magazines look better every year but that their ability to convey art gets worse every year–they cannot properly convey what an art piece looks like.  You have to read the texts to see what is happening.

His essay concerns the Enemy of Contemporary Art who says that today’s

frauds who pretend to be artists depend on a justifying discourse to validate the nonsense they produce.

They say that contemporary art doesn’t speak for itself–that it needs critics to explain it. (more…)

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may16 SOUNDTRACK: ROBERT GLASPER EXPERIMENT-Tiny Desk Concert #332 (January 20, 2014).

glasperI am unfamiliar with Robert Glasper, but he is a whirlwind on the keyboard and a n excellent improviser.  He’s also pretty funny.  Before the show starts he made a few jokes including picking up a nearby phone and whispering that they were about to do a concert.

The band plays three songs.  I hated the first one, but really enjoyed the second two.

Glasper is classified as neo-soul or R&B.  He typically has a core band and many guests.  The first song is “Trust” which features Marsha Ambrosius on vocals and it is everything I dislike in R&B.  While she has a lovely voice, she does all kinds of trills and vibratos and frippery that turns the 6 minute song into an endless excursion (although everyone else in the room loves it, so it’s obviously just me).

The other two songs are instrumental and fare much better.

The first is called “NPR Tiny Desk Jam (Part 1)” and is an improvised piece. He talks to the other guys and they agree to “Make up something funner than playing something we know.” I love the bass sound on this song.  And for much of it bassist Derrick Hodge, is playing the main part (Hodge has his own albums out too).  When Glasper throws in the little splashes of keys they work really well too.  And the drummer Mark Colenburg, is doing some amazing things with just a snare drum and some bells.  It’s a great 7 minute jam.

  The final song”F.T.B. (Gonna Be Alright)” is one that he has done as an instrumental and with vocals.  Thankfully this version is instrumental.  Although after the opening notes he sings “hey, yeah” which makes the rest of the band laugh and stop.  As the song starts off, much to Bob Boilen’s delight, Glasper grabs the Tiny Desk gong and the drummer uses it in the song.   It’s another good jazzy song with some more excellent bass playing.  I might wind up calling this the Derrick Hodge Experiment instead.

[READ: July 6, 2016] “Seeing Double”

The May 16, 2016 issue of the New Yorker had a series called “Univent This” in which six authors imagine something that they could make go away. Since I knew many of them, I decided to write about them all.  I have to wonder how much these writers had to think about their answers, or if they’d imagined this all along.

This uninvent essay is about mirrors.  I enjoyed the opening of the essay in which Kleeman talks about the superstitions behind mirrors–things I didn’t really know about.  A Victorian superstition claims that a mirror captures a portion of one’s soul, which is why breaking a mirror is bad luck–it injures the soul.

And after someone died, mirrors were covered to prevent the soul from becoming trapped.

But Kleeman is more concerned with the surface level engagement we have now because of mirrors. (more…)

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522016 SOUNDTRACK: SISTER SPARROW & THE DIRTY BIRDS-Tiny Desk Concert #525 (April 25, 2016).

sistersparrowI was intrigued by the name of this band, but I was so disappointed to find out that they were another soul/blues band fronted by a woman who sounds like Bonnie Raitt.  Between Bonnie Raitt’s new album, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Lake Street Dive and now this band there’s just too much of this music that is basically the same.  And then there’s the song titles: “Sugar” “Catch Me if You Can” and “Mama Said.”

I also had to laugh at the men in the band each one of the six has a beard.  And I got  a big kick out of the harmonica player who looks like he’s trying to be bad ass, but it’s really hard to look like a bad ass when you are blowing harmonica. And the lead singer does all of those bluesy things that drive me nuts—”sing it with me, “can you play that thing for your mama, now,” etc.

Having gotten that out of the way, the band is really quite good.  The sax player has some great solos and the trumpet player sounds good too.  And, while I mocked the harmonica player, he is really good—especially on the second and third songs where he plays an electric harmonica and really wails (he is also the brother of the lead singer).  Speaking of the lead singer, her voice is great.  She’s a tiny little thing but man can she belt out notes.  And she’s got the great ability to “sing” mmm hmmms and have them be really loud—a good bluesy front woman.  The lead guitarist is really good too whether he’s playing with a slide or doing some lengthy solos, the band really rocks.  Frankly you’d have to be a corpse not to tap your foot along to the rhythm or smile at this skinny redhead belting out these notes.

But I would never be able to tell them apart from the other bands I mentioned earlier.

[READ: June 10, 2016] “Choking Victim”

This was the second story in a row that I found hard to believe (and which I didn’t understand the title of).

Karen is in her mid-thirties and has recently had a baby.  She is depressed and doesn’t understand why everything is so different in her life.

The thing that I couldn’t quite get in this story was whether or not all of the people who gave her dirty looks (and there a lot) were in her head or in reality.  I simply don’t believe that so many people would give her a dirty look just as she walks down the street: “When she pushed her baby through the park in a bulky red stroller, people watched her with curiosity and pity.”

Her husband was away for two weeks and she had a hard time with the baby.  It was especially disconcerting to Karen because at six months old her baby wasn’t really talking–hardly even babbling. (more…)

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