Archive for the ‘Joann Sfar’ Category

klezmerSOUNDTRACK: COLIN STETSON [CST073] “The Righteous Wrath of an Honorable Man” (2010).

stet7This is a 7″ release from Constellation, a kind of single from New History Warfare 2.  It has two tracks, “The righteous wrath of an honorable man” is such a good song that it deserved to be singled out like this.  It’s also amazing how short it is.

Side 2 is called “Judges (Damian Taylor Concretification Mix).”  This is a fascinating track because Taylor has “grabbed samples from throughout the album to create a musique concrète roundup of the entire record!”

It’s a strange listen as he picks certain things and repeats them–sometimes very quickly (like a skip) other times in slow modulations.  And then it just jumps somewhere else–again, like a skip.  There’s some menace and some sirens like sound juxtaposed with thudding bass moments.  And the middle samples all the clicking and banging from the keys on his sax.

I did like how he throws in a few notable riffs into the song but more as a repeated refrain than as part of the overall song.

This track is more interesting than enjoyable.  It’s unlikely to convince anyone of the genius of Stetson, but it’s an interesting listen.

[READ: June 10, 2016] Klezmer

I have read a bunch of books by Sfar because of First Second publishes a lot of his books (although apparently only a small fraction of the hundreds that he has written).  The frustrating thing about this book is that thee are apparently five volumes of this original series but it appears that there is no intention of publishing the rest (it has been ten years since this one came out, after all).

This story is meant to be very loosely based on something, although I’m not exactly clear what.  As with so many other stories, it was translated by Alexis Siegel. (more…)

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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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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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vamplove SOUNDTRACK: DO MAKE SAY THINK-You, You’re a History in Rust [CST045] (2007).

rustYou, You’re a History in Rust feels very different from DMST’s previous album.  That record felt kind of insular and tight.  This one feels expansive and experimental.  Like the first song which has multiple sections that feel completely unrelated and which are only connected by silence.  Or the fact that there are lyrics in a song, or even a fairly conventional song.

“Bound to Be That Way” This song opens in a peculiar way.  There’s a drum rhythm, that slowly builds and some piano chords are laid over the top. This goes on for about 45 seconds and then fades out.  And then a new melody–completely different–with horns and guitar peeks its way out. And then it too fades.  Then around 2 minutes a pretty guitar melody comes through followed by big crashing distorted drums. Eventually a new riff enters the song and it really starts grooving.  It’s fantastic, but it too is just a portion of a song which ends at around 4:30.  And then another new section comes in. Then acoustic guitar riff is counterpointed by some horns.  The final melody is the catchiest one of the bunch and it ends this strange song on a high.

But if that was strange, “A with Living” offers the biggest shock to fans of the band.  There are words in this song!  And they are sung! Words were co-written and sung by Alex Lukashevsky and the Great Lake Swimmers’ Tony Dekker.  Akron/Family also joins in doing “oohs” and “ahs.”  It opens with rumbling drums and then the singing begins.  The song has a conventional verse chorus verse structure with big horns.  It’s catchy (the vocals are great).   But it’s also a 9 minute song and at 4 and a half minutes the song moves way from the melody and enters a lengthy instrumental section with deep rumbling guitars.  The chorus of voices returns briefly before the mellow guitars lead us to the end.

“The Universe!” is one of my favorite DMST songs.  It rocks and rollicks.  It has two notes and then five bashing chords.  Repeated several times.  It’s one of the most straightforward songs they’ve done.  It has screaming guitar solos and a cool sliding bass. It’s also very raw sounding, with all kinds of noise floating around it.  And just like that, it’s gone.  Seguing into the quiet, “A Tender history in rust” which opens with processed guitars or keyboards, layered upon each other.   There are voices fighting through (saying all kinds of sounds—including laughing), before it switches to a pretty acoustic guitar riff.  It’s a delightfully conventional folk melody–another unusual addition for the band.

“Herstory of Glory” has another pretty acoustic guitar melody with some rattling drums (in the right ear).   Then there’s a rumbling bass and distant voices before more and more instruments add to the beautiful song–pianos, trumpets, claps.

“You, You’re Awesome,” is the shortest song on the disc at under 4 minutes.  It opens with slow electric guitars and a e-bowed solo.  After a minute or so, the rest of the band comes in with a slide guitar and banjo making a kind of sloppy folky romp.

“Executioner Blues” is another favorite.  Its 8 minutes long with some lovey guitar riffs and sounds.  It opens with some big guitars and a repeating riff.  A martial drums enters the song and keeps it moving until the next big section.  Horns repeat a similar melody and then a romping bass guitar takes over.  More instruments kick in making the song noisy and slightly distorted.  There’s piano trills, glockenspiel, electric guitar, noises and more.   and the instruments all go up the scale slowly for a few bars and then play a punch of staccato notes.  It’s rather dramatic.  After several permutations of this, they just keep going up and up the scale until the reach the top and then they gradually descend again.  The last minute is a series of quiet bass notes, as if everyone has totally come down from that intensity.

“In Mind” is a quiet disc closer.  A simple guitar melody, it is joined by banjo and trumpet.  Then some bass lines come in followed by a very distorted chorus singing “When you die, you’ll have to leave them behind/You should keep that in mind/When you keep that in mind, you’ll find a love as big as the sky.”  The disc ends with some quite banjo plucking.

This disc goes all over the place and really explores different avenues.

[READ: February 10, 2016] Vampire Loves

Joann Sfar created Little Vampire (and apparently about 100 other comics, some of which have been translated into English by Alexis Siegel and published by First Second).  Of the things I’ve read by him, (and there have been a few) I enjoyed this the most.  It seems like a lot of his books (like Little Vampire) are for kids, bu this one is absolutely for adults (there;’s curses in it and talk of sex and everything).

There are four stories in this book (I just learned that Sfar has written six in total, so maybe there will be more translated). After the third book in this collection, there’s a question as to whether or not Ferdinand, the vampire in this story is Little Vampire.  There’s a little drawing of Little Vampire which says that Ferdinand is him.  “But vampires don’t grow up!  No, but they can grow little.  Ferdinand was me before!  You mean that before being little you were grownup? Yes.”  So there’s that sorted.

“Could Cupid Care Less?” starts us off with Ferdinand the vampire’s woes.  His girlfriend, Lana, (a kind of plant creature) has just come back.  She cheated on him, but turns the conversation around to say that it is his fault–if he weren’t so jealous he never would have found out.  He freaks about this and she storms off again.  Furious, he sets off for his nightly feeding.  Ferdinand is a nice vampire–he takes little sips and only with one fang so it looks like mosquito.  While he is feeding on a woman, a red-haired vampire storms in and shows him how to do it right.  She is a vixen with an ankh necklace and after feeding, she comes on to Ferdinand hard.  She says she likes old, proper-looking vampires–not goth wannabes.  She brings him back to her house but before they can do anything, her sister walks in.  She’s also red-haired and has a shapely figure and actually has more in common with Ferdinand.  And that’s when we learn that the first woman’s name was Aspirine and her sister’s name is Ritaline (ha!).

All of the stories cut back and forth to different sections.  So we cut over the Lani who is staying with the Tree Man.  He is trying to hit on her, but she’s having nothing to do with it.

We return to Ferdinand where he just can’t get rid of Aspirine, even when he wants some alone time.  He can’t get a woman he wants and can’t get rid of the ones he doesn’t.

“Mortal Maidens on My Mind” opens with a Japanese woman meeting Ferdinand in Paris and falling for him.  They do all kinds of things together and she even writes home about him.  But Ferdinand had to return home and that was the end of that.

We cut back to the Tree Man who is still pining for Lani but is having no luck with her.

Back home, Ferdinand runs into the man who slept with Lani, Michael.  He also argues that it was Ferdinand’s fault that things wound up as they did.  He says that he was just looking for fun.  He didn’t want to hurt anyone, so why did Ferdinand have to get involved?  After a fight Ferdinand leaves to go to a bar where he tries to hook up with a woman but it all falls apart.

Then we cut to a man who has created a golem.  He wanted the golem to do bad things, but the golem is so kind that he couldn’t possible have made the him do the evil things he planned.

The postscript of the story contains a few notes on the protagonists of this story which sort of retroactively tries to make sense of the seemingly disparate story lines and lets us know how these characters belong here.

“Lonely Hearts Crossing” shows Ferdinand on a cruise.  But first we meet a woman named Alas, and her spiritual ghost-creature-friend named Sigh.  Alas is looking to score with the captain of the ship (who is the invisible man).

Meanwhile Lani is going shopping with Tree Man.  He has become her buddy and he can’t get out of it.

On the ship, Ferdinand runs into a werewolf who turns into a wolf when he sees a girl.  He only transforms back if he can kiss a girl.  But he is a such charming creature that he has no problems scoring–much to Ferdinand disgust and amazement.

The story turns very exciting as there are armed criminals on board and a shootout.  And by the end of the story Ferdinand is making out with the spirit ghost creature (who teaches him how to go through walls which turns them both kind of ghostly for a time).

“Moonstruck Post Mortem” ends the book with Ferdinand trying to pick someone else up.  His conscience is bothering him lately though so he manages to get rid of it.  The woman is interested in him but already had two boyfriends so she kind of blows him off.

The scenes shifts to Ferdinand at the police station.  He’s not n any trouble.  in fact, the police would like him to help with their investigation of suspicious murders.  Since he’s nocturnal they figure he can look at night.  That’s how police work, right?

Ferdinand decides to go out drinking again. He meets a woman he likes, but she seems disinterested. So he quickly moves on and finds a  creature who is into him.  But he is quickly utterly disgusted by her.  And the first woman just came back. Oh no!

Frustrated, he leaves and goes to see the dentist–because the dentist has some secret information about the investigation. But before he will give the information to Ferdinand, he needs to give him a compete check up.  By the end, he tells Ferdinand not to get involved. And as the story progresses and the criminal is found…  Ferdinand is shot and thrown into a hole!  Can Ferdinand’s conscience come to the rescue?

The whole story concludes with Ferdinand going back to find Ritaline (but of course finding Aspirine instead).  She offers to let him bite her–but when one vampire bites another it’s “catastrophe.”

It’s a totally nuts book but very funny.  Another fun book in my #10yearsof01 February.

I think the reason I don’t enjoy the Sfar books as much as I might is because they are printed so small.  I don’t know what the original size was, but the format makes everything feel really squished.  This makes the dialogue hard to read and means you can’t see all of the details that well.  I think if these books were bigger it would really help their appeal.

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little vamopSOUNDTRACK: DO MAKE SAY THINK-Winter Hymn Country Hymn Secret Hymn [CST025] (2003).

hymnThis album, at least according to the liner notes, seems to be broken into three sections, as the title suggests.  Although there is no explicit attachment of a particular hymn to the songs, there is a gap between the listings, giving each section three songs.

“Federica” is 9 minutes long and opens with a very lovely slow guitar melody.  Then the drums crash in and the song doesn’t change so much as intensify.  At around 3 minutes the song pauses before a loping bass adds to the mixture and the songs gets bigger and bigger, and even a little funkier. When the distorted guitar comes in at 5 minutes, it’s hard to believe it’s basically the same song all along.  It builds to a cacophonous explosion and then settles down again. A new style emerges—slow and plaintive with mildly distorted guitars. But they can’t stay muted for long. The distorted guitar comes back and forces the song forward with some distorted bass and other noises until it resumes a reprise of the original guitar melody.

“War on Want” is only 2 minutes long.  It is mostly strings that seemed to be looped in some way.  There haven’t been a lot of strings in DMST records so far, so this is new.  They drift slightly out of tune as they introduce the 3rd song “Auberge le Mouton Noir.”  The song opens with some crackling noises and some pretty, slow chords. which resolve into a simple riff.  The song builds, growing faster with a great propulsive beat. I like that it switches back and forth between the chords and the guitar riff.  Is that a slightly out of tune bass guitar before the ringing guitar solo takes over?

The second section begins with “Outer Inner & Secret.”  It’s ten minutes long and opens with an interesting bass line and guitar motif. It’s quiet and insistent, kind of dreamy. After exploring some quieter avenues some feedback squalls float in and out.  About 4 minutes in the song builds, but it quickly recedes only to build again and recede once more.  For the third build the drums kick in and the song launches in a louder direction for a few measures.  But just as you think it’s going to take off for a while, it settles down and then comes back to a quitter style with martial beat and keyboards.   The remainder of the song switches between loud building guitarists and quitter moments with just bass and drums.  For the last-minute or so horns burst forth and then the music drops away except for the horns, which end the song with a plaintive melody.

The 4 minute “107 Reasons Why” is a slow horn & guitar melody song.  There’s some interesting sounds that play over the top of the delicate melody, including a nice horn line.

“Ontario Plates” is 7 minutes long and opens with very jazzy drums and bass–it’s rather noir with a quiet saxophone.   Once the sax plays over the top it just increases the jazziness. DMST has always had a jazz feel but this one really pushes it about as far as the band has gone. The drums start to come to the fore and I love the way about 3 minutes in the drums morph into something else and the song almost imperceptibly switches into a new song entirely. The bass takes over and a new riff enters the piece. About 5 minutes in, the song switches to a very bright and uplifting motif–big horns, bright guitars and a catchy riff.  It’s quite lovely.

The third section opens with “Horns of a Rabbit.”  This song introduces big drums and kind of electronic bass sound.  About two minutes in the noise beaks through—bashing guitars and intense drums.  It even includes a pretty wild guitar solo. I like how the song (which is only 4 minutes (kind of disintegrates on itself before merging into the two-minute “It’s Gonna Rain,” which may indeed be simply the sound of rain on a tin roof.

The final track, the 7 minute “Hooray! Hooray! Hooray!” opens with some synths sounds—unlike anything else on the record.  And then a pretty guitar intro mixes with some lovely horns.  It’s probably the most delicate thing they have created.  After 3 minutes the occasional guitar swirls grow louder and it grinds it way to a happy and uplifting keyboard riff.   Then a bunch of surprises for DMST: A slide guitar plays a little solo and then, most surprisingly, a chorus of voices sings the melody.  The ending slide guitar sounds like it could come from Mercury Rev or The Flaming Lips.  If you listen closely, you can hear people shouting Hooray! in the background.

This album feels a bit more claustrophobic than their others, and while I like pretty much all of the songs, I really like their other albums more.

[READ: December 20, 2015] Little Vampire

Joann Sfar is responsible for the Sardine comics which I kind of liked but mostly didn’t (I think that may have been because of the uglyish drawing style).  But here Sfar has another series called Little Vampire.  (I also just learned that Joann Sfar is a man, so apologies earlier, but I think that’s an understandable mistake).

This book collects three stories into one volume, all translated by Alexis Siegel.  Each story is about 30 pages.  And they follow the “life” of little vampire.  He is a sweet boy with a bald head, big eyes and pointy ears.  He lives in a castle with call all kinds of undead people including his dog Phantomato (he is bright red and rather devious) and several other monsters.

“Little Vampire Goes to School” introduces us to the home where the monsters live.  As the undead are partying, Little Vampire comes down and says he wants to go to school.  The others are horrified, but he won’t give up the idea. He says he’s bored and wants to meet other children (most of the undead are adults).

Little Vampire’s mother (who is strangely pretty in her weird design) and the other elders allow him to go to school, but he can only go at night when it is closed.  So the undead come and all attend school with him.  The class is taught by The Captain of the Dead who is an old dead pirate. (more…)

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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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