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Archive for the ‘Emmanuel Guibert’ Category

sardine6SOUNDTRACK0 Tonne Seize [CST bonus] (2016).

tonne0 Tonne Seize is a bonus compilation of three tracks each from Off World, Automatiste and Jason Sharp.  The collection is 41 minutes of music (not too shabby) and came with a pre-order of the three records (and is available on Soundcloud as well).

The first three songs are by Off World and the first two of those are remixes.  The original “Wonder Farm” is dominated by popping drum sounds.  There are some other sounds that go through the track but the base is mostly a kind of slow Asian melody.  The “Wonder Farm (Summer Crop)” mix removes those snaps and percussion entirely.  It focuses just on the music, which I have to say is far more enjoyable without the bangs.  “Primitive Streak” is a slow droning piece, while this compilation’s “Primitive Streak (Silver Mix)” doesn’t sound all that different.  It also removes the drums, and highlights the squeaky synth sounds and the overall drone tone.  It seems to emphasize and de-emphasize different instruments but otherwise sounds pretty similar. The final track  “Lost Meadow” is a pretty, delicate piano based piece with some twinkling of spacey synth notes.  It’s easily the prettiest piece.

The three Automatiste tracks do not quite follow the same naming convention as the actual disc, although the first track is called “Simultanéité 5.” It has slow beats and is basically two-note washes building on top of each other.  “Fragments continus” is a noisy piece with layered thudding drums (like heartbeats especially around the 1 minute mark) and drone noises that wash in and out.   About half way through what sounds like a melody appears amid the din, but it feels like it formed organically around the synths and drums which is pretty cool.   “Le Silence 3” opens with some jackhammer sounding drums and then almost easy listening synths.  The juxtaposition is interesting and by the end the song feels nicely dancey.

The final three songs are from Jason Sharp.  These three are quite different from his album because they really feature the saxophone to a larger degree.  “Plummeting Veins” opens with a heartbeat and some rumbling sax (that sounds like the opening of the Speed Racer TV show).   This track is under 2 minutes, the shortest he’s done by far, and the way the heartbeat speeds up as the sax plays some low rumbling notes is pretty cool. “Hear a Fading Cry” is a much longer number.  The heartbeat is quieter but the sax is much louder.  It sounds a lot like Colin Stetson in the low rumbling and noisy barking that the bass sax can produce.  It ends with some rather high-pitched squeaky sounds that I assume come from the sax, but which I can’t imagine coming from such a bass instrument.  It’s 7 minutes long although it takes almost 2 minutes to really get going.  And it swerves between loud and rumbling and then sort of menacing by the end,  “Ride On Into the Sweetening Dark” is perhaps the most conventional of Sharp’s songs.  It is a series of sax solo lines over a gentle tinkling backing drone.  Some of the solos lead to noisy wailing, but for the most part the line are pretty and jazzy.

It’s interesting how different these bonus tracks tend to be from the actual releases.  I enjoyed listening to these variants to see what else these artists are capable of.

[READ: April 9, 2016] Sardine in Outer Space 6

Sardine is a children’s book published by First Second.  It was originally published in France (and in French) and was translated by Sasha Watson.  There are six Sardine books out.

The inner flap says “No Grownups Allowed (Unless they’re pirates or space adventurers).”  This is the final Sardine book.  And while I didn’t enjoy the first book much, by now I’m sorry to see the series end.

This book also has the fewest stories in it (only 9). (more…)

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sardine5SOUNDTRACK: JASON SHARP-A Boat Upon Its Blood [CST119] (2016).

Layout 1Constellation records had been rather quiet this year in terms of new releases.  And then back in August they announced three new discs with this intriguing blurb:

Constellation’s three new fall releases by Off World, Automatisme and Jason Sharp are dropping on September 30th…  These new releases are wildly different yet satisfyingly leftfield albums that share an electric thread of sorts.  Electronic music strategies, technologies, histories and sensibilities come into play, in very diverse ways, with each of these debut records – making them stand out a little differently in the context of the Constellation catalogue perhaps, but also informing one another and making a lot of sense to our ears as an album trio (somewhat in the spirit of our Musique Fragile series).

This is the third of those three.

Jason Sharp has written this disc as “music written for amplified heart & breath,” and Sharp is credited with “playing” amplified heart, feedback, synthesizers and bass saxophone.  Other instruments listed are Pedal Steel Guitar, Violin and various percussive instruments.

From the Constellation site: “Using custom-built equipment to translate breath and heart rate into variegated sonic triggers, along with other modes of signal processing and in tandem with traditional instrumentation…[the album] deploys the human metronome of amplified pulse as a recurring undercurrent, with compositions that incorporate electro-acoustic and musique concrète strategies, drone, noise, electronics, methodical dissonance, tone poem, layered rhythmic and melodic figures, and improvisation.”

The disc opens with a trio of songs: “A Boat Upon Its Blood Pt.s 1, 2 & 3”  Part 1 begins with some quiet drones and pulses and what sounds (if you think about it) like water running through pipes or blood through veins.  It also like plectrum hitting strings or a musical rain stick.  The songs build in intensity until a pulse that sounds a lot like a heart beat (which it should) ends the track. This heart beat segues into Part 2 which is dominated by violins.  The violins seem to alternate between drones and dissonance with the pulses seeming to beat a bit faster in parts.  As this track ends, a martial beat takes over the drums, and that segues into Part 3 which has more drone sounds.   About midway through, new percussive sounds come in, changing the tone of the piece entirely.

Track 4 is “In the construction of the chest, there is a heart” is the most interesting of the bunch.  It has what I assume are several different heart beat sounds modified to create different percussion under various droning sounds. It really exemplifies the “heartbeat” aspect of the piece, which I thought would be more prominent in the disc overall.  The second half of the song is full of swishes and scratchy sounds which I certainly hope are the sounds of his blood pulsing through his veins.

“A blast at best” is a noise piece which sounds almost like the heart beats have been put through an autotune.  Midway through the song comes the bass sax playing some farting and pulsing sounds that add an interesting  melody to the sloshy noises.

Tracks 6 and 7 are another multi-part song “Still I sit
with you inside me Parts 1 and 2.”  Part 1 opens with a much more pleasant, albeit somber violin.  Slowly the heartbeats grow louder and more prominent.  The pulses increase and decrease although not necessarily with the intensity of the music.  The violins swirl and ebb, growing louder and more intense and then fading and seguing into the last track which opens with pretty guitars and accompanying violin.  About halfway through the song, the heartbeat resumes.  It come pulsing into the song louder and louder, dominating the whole thing.  And then with a few seconds left it builds a wall of feedback and noise that gives way to a cathartic echo.

This would be another string candidate for NPR’s Echoes.  Have you heard this, John Diliberto?

The disc notes that the piece was inspired by the Robert Creeley poem, “The Heart,” which I have included at the end of the post.

[READ: April 9, 2016] Sardine in Outer Space 5

Sardine is a children’s book published by First Second.  It was originally published in France (and in French) and was translated by Sasha Watson.  There are six Sardine books out.

The inner flap says “No Grownups Allowed (Unless they’re pirates or space adventurers).”  For the first time, Sardine was created without the help of Joann Sfar.  And I found this one to be my favorite one yet!

It seems like Sardine has really hits its stride with Book 5.  The author is having a ton of fun playing around with pop culture and with the idea that the characters know that there are books about them. It’s still a little weird that Supermuscleman is really the only bad guy and that he is always coincidentally where they show up, but that’s clearly not the point of the comic, right? (more…)

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sardine4 SOUNDTRACK: AUTOMATISME-Momentform Accumulations [CST118] (2016).

Layout 1Constellation records had been rather quiet this year in terms of new releases.  And then back in August they announced three new discs with this intriguing blurb:

Constellation’s three new fall releases by Off World, Automatisme and Jason Sharp are dropping on September 30th…  These new releases are wildly different yet satisfyingly leftfield albums that share an electric thread of sorts.  Electronic music strategies, technologies, histories and sensibilities come into play, in very diverse ways, with each of these debut records – making them stand out a little differently in the context of the Constellation catalogue perhaps, but also informing one another and making a lot of sense to our ears as an album trio (somewhat in the spirit of our Musique Fragile series).

This is the second of those three.

From the Constellation site: “Automatisme is the electronic music project of Quebec-based producer William Jourdain, who has been self-releasing a brilliant series of albums and tracks under this moniker since 2013, exploring various intersections of drone, dub techno, electronica, ambient, electro-acoustic, and noise.”

This album is, indeed, very drone, dub techno, electronica, ambient, electro-acoustic, and noise.  There are six tracks: Transport 1, 2, and 3 and Simultanéité 3, 1, and 4.  The Transport tracks are all about 5 minutes and the Simultanéité tracks are all about 9 and they are interfiled on the record.

“Transport 1” seems to be all about the thumping drums. The synth lines are fairly simple and serve to propel the song along as almost an ambient dance track.  “Simultanéité 3” opens with some mechanical drone sounds and a beeping almost like a heart monitor.  The beeps change and then a new drum beat is added while fiddling synths tickle along the top of the song.  Things slow down and speed up and the track reminds me a lot of something you’d heard on NPRs awesome Echoes program.

“Transport 2” is more about drums. There are several different percussion themes going on–fat repeated drums, the main steady beat and then some low synth that runs through pretty much the whole thing.  “Simultanéité 1” is a drone song with a drum sound that is like a heart beat.  About a minute in the note changes and 30 second later the song takes on a different texture and pulse.  It remains largely ambient for most of the song.

“Transport 3” has more percussive sounds that make this track much faster than the others. The final track “Simultanéité 4” has what sounds like voices (although I assume they are not) echoing underneath the slow pulsing rhythms.

While the track listing alternates between drum heavy tracks and more mellow tracks, the whole disc has a very chill vibe.

[READ: December 5, 2014] Sardine in Outer Space 4

Sardine is a children’s book published by First Second.  It was originally published in France (and in French) and was translated by Sasha Watson.  There are six Sardine books out.

This time the inner flap says “No Grownups Allowed (Unless they’re pirates or space adventurers),” and this book had some of my favorite cartoons yet.

“Under the Bed” has the kids getting lost under Little Louie’s bed and finding all the monsters that hide there.  But Sardine’s adventures are so scary that the monsters don’t stand a chance trying to frighten him–they’re even a little afraid of Sardine, too.  Of course the kids have someone who they can go frighten. (more…)

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sardine3SOUNDTRACK: OFF WORLD-1 [CST117] (2016).

Layout 1Constellation records had been rather quiet this year in terms of new releases.  And then back in August they announced three new discs with this intriguing blurb:

Constellation’s three new fall releases by Off World, Automatisme and Jason Sharp are dropping on September 30th…  These new releases are wildly different yet satisfyingly leftfield albums that share an electric thread of sorts.  Electronic music strategies, technologies, histories and sensibilities come into play, in very diverse ways, with each of these debut records – making them stand out a little differently in the context of the Constellation catalogue perhaps, but also informing one another and making a lot of sense to our ears as an album trio (somewhat in the spirit of our Musique Fragile series).

This is the first of those three.

Off World is a collaborative project featuring Sandro Perri. As the Constellation site reminds us:

Over the past couple of years, Perri has been letting us in on a fascinating treasure chest of strange and enchanting collaborative sound recordings – rich in deconstructed melody, interplay between acoustic and electronic instrumentation, and pointillist and aleatory composition techniques. … Off World 1 is alien electronics played humanly, with real-world accents throughout. 1 was conceived almost entirely during a 2-day session in London: a meeting orchestrated by producer Drew Brown between himself, Perri, Susumu Mukai and M J Silver after learning that Perri was a huge fan of both Mukai and Silver’s work. A bounty of raw material featuring mostly vintage synthesizers – EMS Synthi, Syntorchestra, Prophet 5 – was later abetted by violin, banjo, harpsichord, guitar and piano. The result is genuinely exploratory and peculiar sui generis instrumental electronic music that sounds like it could have issued from any time in the past 40-50 years. Off World resists easy categorization: not ambient “easy listening”, not strictly “improvised”, not “retro” – but eccentrically absorbing and soothingly mischievous as it charts its own sonic trails.

There are 7 songs on the disc and they are all variants on a kind of electronic/alien sound.  “Primitive Streak” has trippy synth lines and a slightly quavery “solo” over a simple drum beat.  “Old Brain” has a kind of staccato guitar part that plays through quickly.  It is later matched by “New Brain” which explores the same rhythms in a different way.

“No Host” is 80 seconds long  full of simple almost otherworldly synths (it reminds me of Close Encounters). “Extraction” has some loud ominous chords that surge and the recede.  “Choral Hatch” sounds both underwater and other worldly.

The final song, “Wonder Farm” sounds unlike the other songs because it is full of these snapping drum sounds–seemingly at odd intervals and not playing any rhythm (it sounds like fireworks going off).  The music also has hints of Japanese music but it seems overshadowed by the crashes.

Of the three I like this one best because of its varied sounds.

[READ: March 31, 2016] Sardine in Outer Space 3

Sardine is a children’s book published by First Second.  It was originally published in France (and in French) and was translated by Sasha Watson.  There are six Sardine books out.

This time the inner flap says “No Grownups Allowed (Unless they’re pirates or space adventurers),” and I found that I enjoyed book 3 quite a bit more than the first two books. Perhaps it is because I have read a few more First Second books by Sfar and have grown used to his style and humor.  Or perhaps the stories have just gotten better. (more…)

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guibertSOUNDTRACK: JACKSON BROWNE-Tiny Desk Concert #394 (October 6, 2014).

jbI don’t really think much of Jackson Browne.  He’s always been a staple of classic rock radio, but I never especially sought him out. His voice is unique and recognizable although if pressed I can’t think of the names of any of his songs (but I’d know them immediately if I heard them).

Bob Boilen talked with Browne in his book and that’s where I learned that Browne dated Nico from The Velvet Underground fame and even wrote songs for her.  I also learned that he is quite the activist.  And that he plays a lot in California with various performers (the blurb says “he’s largely free of obligations”–that’s a nice phrasing).

He plays three songs here.  I assume they’re all new as I don’t recognize them.  And they all sound very much like Jackson Browne.  He voice is largely the same although it does crack and break a few times (could that be the setting or the time of day or does he just accept that he’s getting older?).

It’s also interesting that Browne plays the rhythm guitar for most of the songs–allowing Val McCallum to play the lead guitar and Greg Leisz to play “all manner of stringed things” (including the slide guitar solos).

The three songs are “Call It A Loan,” “The Barricades Of Heaven” and “Long Way Around.”  I’m surprised at just how long these three songs are (the whole set comes in around 20 minutes).

Before “Long Way Around” (which is quite political), he says that they’re “Lucky to play for such an informed group.”  Bob says they stopped the news–there’s no news being made–so that Browne could play.

Some of the lines in “Long Way Around” are: “It’s hard to say which did more ill, Citizen United or the gulf oil spill” and “It’s never been that hard to buy a gun, now they’ll sell a Glock 19 to just about anyone.”

The songs are nicely accentuated by the backing vocals of Jeff Young who also plays keyboards for them but which they couldn’t bring.

This is a delightful, mellow (and thoughtful) set of music (with a huge crowd watching).  And there’s a funny moment at the end where someone triggers a James Brown doll and Browne does a pretty good “hit me!”

[READ: March 2, 2016] How the World Was

I was intrigued to read this book by Emmanuel Guibert because I’ve really enjoyed his work lately.  But how was I to know that How the World Was is a prequel of sorts to Alan’s War?  It was also translated by Kathryn Pulver.

This book is a”loving, immersive portrait of Alan Cope.”  Cope was born in 1925 when California was still the frontier and life was simpler and harsher.  And Guibert felt that it was a gift for Cope “in the last moments of his life” (unlike in Alan’s War there’s no word on whether Cope saw this book).

So this book is indeed all about Cope’s childhood.  And while he did have some pretty interesting things happen to him, his childhood was in no way extraordinary.   This is just a simple portrait of growing up in Californians in the 1920 s and 1930s as seen from one man’s eyes. (more…)

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photoSOUNDTRACK: WILCO-Tiny Desk Concert #509 (February 23, 2016).

wilcoAs far as I can tell, Wilco is the first band to be invited back for a Tiny Desk Concert (there was a stated rule that no one would come back twice, with some people skirting that by coming with another band).  Laura Gibson was invited back since she was the very first attendee, but since Wilco’s newest album has been so successful, it seems somehow fitting that they get invited back.

And perhaps in honor of that, while their last performance was noisy and raucous, this one is decidedly more mellow—with all acoustic instruments.  But that doesn’t mean it’s quiet and calm either.

For the first song “The Joke Explained” from Star Wars, they used banjo, acoustic bass, hollow bodies electric guitar (w/ slide), the ever-present melodica and muted drums (w/shakers).  And it sounded great.

For the second song, the older “Misunderstood” everybody seemed to switch instruments.  Tweedy switched guitars, the acoustic bass became an acoustic guitar, the hollow body became a slide guitar.  Nels Cline’s slide guitar brings so much to the song by doing seemingly so little.  I love how this simple, sweet song has a wild middle section–a crazy breakdown with noisy cymbals and drums–drummer Glenn Kotche is fantastic–and everyone else playing some crazy high-pitched notes until it all settles back down again.

Tweedy has another guitar for the third song “I’m Always In Love” and the melodica is back.  There’s xylophone keeping the melody.  And as with all of these songs, Tweedy sounds great and the backing vocals add wonderful harmonies.  Cline plays a wonderful slide solo, too.

Before the final song and there’s another guitar change for Tweedy, and he says that after this song, “you guys need to get back to work solving this Trump problem. Figure it out! Its weird!”  They play “Shot in the Arm,” another great old song.

The band sounds excellent—a wonderfully full sound even without amplification. I am really excited to see them his summer.

There’s also a nifty video showing “Misunderstood” with two 360 degree cameras so you can see what goes on in the audience during a Tiny Desk Concert.  Check it out.

[READ: February 7, 2016] The Photographer

I loved Guibert’s book Alan’s War, in which he took the words of Alan Cope and put them to an amazing graphic novel.  Well, he is back again doing the same thing with the words of famed photograph Didier Lefèvre.

Didier Lefèvre died in 2008, but before he died he left a legacy of amazing photojournalism.  That includes this trip to Afghanistan which he took with the team from Doctors without Borders.

Alexis Siegel translated this book again, and he offers an excellent introduction which not only explains Lefèvre’s life, it also gives context for everything tat these men and women were up against in that war-torn region.

As mentioned Guibert draws out the story that Lefèvre told him.  But this book is different from Alan’s War in that it also uses the photos that Lefèvre took.  Guibert fills in the gaps where Lefèvre, didn’t or couldn’t, shoot.  And there was a lot he couldn’t shoot. (more…)

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alansSOUNDTRACK: DO MAKE SAY THINK-Do Make Say Think [CST005] (1999).

cst005web This album was self-released in 1997, but then the guys at Constellation took it and released it in a beautiful package in 1999.  And Constellation did it right: CD gatefold jacket made from 100lb. textured uncoated cardstock with foil-embossed text and window cut.  Three different two-sided duotone insert cards can be interchanged to show through the front cover window cut. Snazzy!

So this album was recorded in two different locations and it feels a bit more like  compilation of their songs than an album proper.  This doesn’t detract from the music at all, it’s just not as cohesive as their later releases.

“1978” has a raw sound.  It builds slowly, with waves of sorta static getting slowly louder for the first minute. And then the drums kick in. They sound very “live” and crisp. There’s a jazzy pattern accompanied by an unusual bass line.  At 3 minutes a big guitar riff breaks up the droning feeling as it rocks out and then disappears just as quickly.  There’s some saxophone and trippy headphone panning going on, too. This sets in motion a more funky bass line that runs like a lead instrument through the proceedings. There’s some noise bashing around at 8 minutes and a even wah wahed guitar solo at 9.  These occasional disruptions give an interesting melodic sense to this otherwise droney (in a good way) 10-minute song.

“Le’espalace”  feels a little warmer.  It opens with some analog synth trippy sounds and a pretty guitar riff. This is a lovely song that meanders around. The song gets more dense with a synth taking over the guitar line and another synth playing a contrasting melody, too.

“If I Only…”  is 7 minutes long.  It also has a rawer feel.  It’s more staccato with keyboard notes propelling the song forward. There’s a trippy middle section with a nice drum breakdown. It stops at about 5 & a half minutes and resumes with a fuller sound as it rides to the end.  “Highway 420” continues with that more raw sound.  It opens with washes of synths like Tangerine Dream or something.  There’s also a slick guitar line that begins about 3 minutes in.  It’s all rather atmospheric.

Do Make Say Think have always had a bit of jazz at their roots.  That’s evident in “Dr. Hooch” which has jazzy cymbals and slow atmospheric guitars.  About half way through, a wild synth riff comes in and takes over the song for a minute or so before returning to the atmospheric sound.

“Disco & Haze” is a warmer song that slowly builds with a spacey keyboard section.  Around 3 minutes in (of 9) a wah-wah’d guitar takes over—seemingly unrelated.   At 5 and a half minutes the song crashes into a big noisy “chorus,” probably the loudest thing on the record. There’s a noisy skronking sax solo to accompany this as well and it ends with washes of keyboards.   It really sounds like nothing else on the record.

“Onions” is only 90 seconds long.   It’s a simple keyboard riff with echo and little variation.  It’s an odd inclusion but maybe serves as a palette cleanser before the nearly 20 minute final song.  “The Fare to Get There” is warm with spacey keyboard washes and occasional woodwinds–there’s even flute at the end.  It’s 20 minutes long so just sit back and let it unfold over you.  Around 5 minutes in, eerie and spooky drums begin.  Then there’s some reverbed guitar chords and echoed notes which keep the song going.  About three-quarters of the way through, they add a simple guitar riff that continues for several minutes. With a couple of minutes left the song introduces some flutes as it mellows it way to close.

This is a pretty impressive debut.  The band knows the sound they are going for and they definitely achieve it.  Later records are more consistent (and consistently better), but this (especially the opening track) is a great place to start with this band.

[READ: February 7, 2016] Alan’s War

One of the things that First Second hoped for in their ten-year anniversary was that people might read books that they wouldn’t normally.  And boy was this ever one.  The title didn’t sound very appealing to me–I don’t really like war stories all that much.  And frankly I didn’t even know what to expect from the story, really.  Certainly not what I got!

This is the story of a man named Alan Cope.  And the origin of the story is as fascinating as the story itself (almost).  Turns out that Emmanuel Guibert met Alan Cope in the street in France.  Guibert asked the older for directions in June of 1994. Cope was 69, Gilbert was 30. They struck up a conversation.  And soon after, Cope began telling of his experiences in World War II.  What happened to him during and after the war and why this American solider now living in France.

Guibert asked if he could draw the stories that Cope was telling him and Cope said yes.  So this is a story of World War II but it is unlike any story I have ever read.  There is very little in the way of “familiar” WWII stuff in it.  Cope wasn’t in any of the major battles, he never came under heavy fire.  Rather, Cope had a fairly easy war, but he had a ton of stories that were interesting, funny, sometime unbelievable. And the number of famous people he encountered is pretty surprising.

I enjoyed this story so much.  On a side note, My father was in WWII and he also had a fairly easy war, although he was in the Pacific, he was on a small island that saw no action..  I wouldn’t say he enjoyed the war, but he came out with good experience and good friends, which is what Cope did, too.  My fathers stories were far less amazing than Cope’s, but it goes to show that everyone has interesting stories and that no amount of film or history channel commemoration will ever cover everyone’s story. (more…)

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sardineSOUNDTRACK: CENTENNIAL SECONDARY SCHOOL MUSICAL THEATRE-The Story of Harmelodia (2000).

Cover-CSSMT-HarmelodiaAs mentioned in yesterday’s post.  The Centennial Secondary School and Choir released their version of The Story of Harmelodia. This CD (which to the best of my knowledge is no longer available for purchase anywhere) is newly available from the Rheostaticslive website.  While the (very cool) cover is there, there’s no information about the musicians.

The disc is about 35 minutes long and it recreates most of the music from the original CD.  For reasons which I’m sure have to do with rights, they do not include “Monkeybird” (everyone’s favorite song) and the songs about the Wingophone.  Those songs were all written by Kevin Hearn. I’d be very surprised if Hearn didn’t give them the rights to the songs, so there must be something else at play.

They also do not include the narration.  This of course makes the story a lot less clear–although at this point I feel like the songs are just fun and sweet, even if they story is lost.

The school’s version is quite good.  The band sounds great (with a whole host of instruments).  While the opening music on the first track sounds a bit high school bandish (perhaps because it so spare) as soon as the choir kicks in it really ratchets up the quality of the music.  And it stays high throughout.

The choir is outstanding, and the variety of instruments (I can hear all the brass, an autoharp, synths (there’s some fun spacey keyboard sounds on “I am Drummstein”) and some electric guitars) makes for a really compelling collection of songs.

One of the biggest difference is that many of the songs have horns playing the main melodies. “Invisible Stairs” has a flute as the lead instrument.  It’s very pretty and I like that it plays the “twinkle twinkle” melody as a counterpoint to the proper melody. It’s a very pretty version.  I also love the way “The Music Room” came out.  And the mostly instrumental “The Sky Dreamed” sounds really lovely.

I don’t know how many lead singers there are (or what their names are, although judging by the concert, I assume it is the same kids).  The female lead as featured on “Home Again” is great.  I like the male lead a little less.  He sounds a but too stiff to me.  Although I do like that on many songs he gives his own reading of the material.

The final song, “Song of the Garden,” sounds terrific.  I love the way the two singers harmonize and the way they place a cool horns section (which reminds me of The Beatles) as the song trails out.

I am of course curious why the couldn’t release those missing songs.  But I’m more impressed that the school (presumably with different people) performed a stage version of the show in 2004 which was played live in several places.

[READ: December 5, 2014] Sardine in Outer Space 2

Sardine is a children’s book published by First Second.  It was originally published in France (and in French) and was translated by Sasha Watson.  There are six Sardine books out.

This time the inner flap says “No Grownups Allowed (Unless they’re pirates or space adventurers),” and I found that I enjoyed book 2 quite a bit more than book 1. Perhaps the jokes just appealed to me a bit more–there were a number that I thought were very funny.

I enjoyed the double cross (well they pretty much all have a double cross) in The Brainwashing Machine.  But I really got a kick out of The Cha-Cha Fly.  When the fly bites you, you get stupid dance songs stuck in your head.  Nice premise–even funnier that the flies are named Britney, Christina, Justin and Clay. (more…)

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profSOUNDTRACK: THE BLUE HAWAIIANS-Christmas on Big Island (1995).

blue ha I was to get this disc used because I already knew one of their songs and I thought that a surfing Christmas album would be fun.

So I was pleased to add this to our collection.  But upon listening to it, I learned that while I enjoy surf guitar instrumentals, I do not enjoy the Hawaiian style of music popularized by Elvis.  This album features both of these types of songs.

The songs that I like include these instrumental surf guitar renditions: “Christmas Time is Here” (the Peanuts song); “White Christmas,” “Jingle Bells” (the guitar is a little too untamed for my liking in this version).  “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is a good instrumental, but there’s a very lengthy middle section that makes the song too long.  “We Four Kings (Little Drummer Boy)” is my favorite track on the album and the one that made me look into more from them.  It’s a great surf guitar rendition of “We Three Kings” with some excellent tribal drumming as a segue into a surf version of “Little Drummer Boy.”

The vocal songs are fine, they’re just not my style.  “Jingle Jangle” and “Blue Christmas” are just way too Elvis-y for my liking (we actually just watched some of Blue Hawaii so it’s in my head).  “Big Island” stars with Hawaiian style drums which I like, then it turns into a kind of blues song.  “Mele Kalikamak” is my favorite song with vocals, probably because of its nontraditional nature (to me).  It ends with about 20 seconds of waves breaking.

“Enchanted Xmas” ends the disc with some Western sounding guitars and some cool wordless backing vocals.  It gives the whole thing an eerier (or enchanted) feel.  Pretty cool.

So something of a mixed bag, but a great album to select tracks for a fun Christmas mix.

[READ: December 15, 2014] The Professor’s Daughter

From the team who brought us Sardine comes this very different kind of story.  Interestingly, in this book, it is Sfar who wrote it and Guibert who drew it.  And I have to say I like it a lot more than the Sardine books (both in content and drawing style).

The story is quite unexpected.  As it opens, a young lady (in Victorian times) is seen stepping out with, well, with a mummy.  It turns out that he is Imhotep IV and she has taken him from his holding spot and is going about town with him.  (And no, it isn’t all a dream.  At least I don’t think it is).

They go out for tea (which makes him tipsy).  He causes all manner of mayhem, including offending someone who slaps his face and challenges him to a duel.  Later when the police come, the professor’s daughter takes matters into her own hands (which only makes the situation worse!).  A man is killed and the mummy is the suspect (which leads to a few very funny scenes). (more…)

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sardineSOUNDTRACK: SUFJAN STEVENS and HIS UNWITTING COHORTS present I am Santa’s Helper even more songs for Christmas Vol. 7 (2007).

sufjan 7This is the first of Sufjan’s Christmas albums to really deviate from the style of the first six.  First off, there are 24 songs on the disc and second, it is 42 minutes long.  Most of the songs are between 1 and 2 minutes, although there are a couple of longer ones too.  There are a large number of songs that are traditional sounding and which have a beautiful chorale of voices supporting it.  But interspersed with these are some nonsensical tracks that sound mostly like goofy kids songs–out of tune, hastily created, sloppy and a lot of fun (I imagine he recorded these songs with the adults’ children while they were in between takes).  It’s surprising that the songs are interspersed like they are since the serious one are so pretty and the weird ones are so weird.

 It’s a ramshackle collection with some real highlights.

“Christ The Lord Is Born” pretty piano instrumental under a minute long.
“Christmas Woman” a big song with lots of orchestration (and clocking in at over 5 minuets).  With lots of backing vocals and a crazy sloppy guitar solo. I love it.
“Break Forth O Beauteous Heavenly Light” 1 minute of piano and chorus: traditional and pretty (this is a Bach song).
“Happy Family Christmas” piano and slightly wonky guitar and after the first verse a bunch distorted chaotic nonsense (with someone “singing” a guitar solo).  The first really weirdo song on a Christmas release of his.
“Jingle Bells” Continuing with the weird style, the “dashing through the snow” part is done with a very off guitar melody and kids laughing during the “laughing all the way” part. It’s silly and funny.
“Mysteries Of The Christmas Mist” 2 minutes of piano and other noises (this is one of many short Sufjan originals).
“Lift Up Your Heads Ye Mighty Gates” another pretty choral piece with many voices.
“We Wish You A Merry Christmas” crazy nonsense of sloppy silly singing and crazy out of tune guitars.
“Ah Holy Jesus” a slow pretty piano song with chorus
“Behold! The Birth Of Man, The Face Of Glory” a slow piano number, also pretty.
“Ding-a-ling-a-ring-a-ling” raucous and wild, with crazy guitars.  It’s 2 minutes of silly nonsense. It ends with someone saying “let’s do a real song”
“How Shall I Fitly Meet Thee?” pretty piano instrumental with voices.
“Mr. Frosty Man” sloppy guitars and nonsense.
“Make Haste To See The Baby” accordion and piano in a slow sombre song.
“Ah Holy Jesus” (reed organ version) this is the second version of this song.
“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” straightforward and pretty with some over-orchestration later in the song
“Morning” pipe organ and flute in a nice instrumental.
“Idumea” the vocal chorale comes back on this sad song.  It is over 3 minutes long and is rather disturbing.
“Eternal Happiness Or Woe” a creepy kind of song with ringing bells and sounds of, well, woe.
“Ah Holy Jesus” [a cappella] the prettiest version on the disc.
“I Am Santa’s Helper” this is a funny song in which the only words are “I am Santa’s helper, you are Santa’s slave.”
“‘Maoz Tzur’ (Rock Of Ages)” a 42 second traditional Jewish hymn done on piano.
“Even The Earth Will Perish And The Universe Give Way” a low bass organ opens this final track on this long and often times weird Christmas disc.

But this is not the weirdest of Sufjan’s Christmas EPs.

[READ: December 5, 2014] Sardine in Outer Space

Sardine is a children’s book published by First Second.  It was originally published in France (and in French) and was translated by Sasha Watson.  There are six Sardine books out.  And I fear that this is one series that I’m really not very interested in finishing.

The inner flap says No Grownups Allowed, so I imagined that the story would be funny and a little naughty.

But really it’s just kind of uninspired.  Sardine is a young girl who works with (or lives with anyhow) the pirate Yellow Shoulder (who is apparently her uncle?) on his outer space pirate ship.  They spend nearly every story (each story is about ten pages) battling the evil (and suitably stupid) Supermuscleman and his evil henchman Doc Krok (a weird orange creature who looks like a walking sweet potato).  There’s also Little Louise, a boy who is Yellow’s..henchman? and may not be all that bright and a cat creature who doesn’t really do much. (more…)

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