Archive for the ‘Junot Díaz’ Category

klosetrSOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICSFall Nationals The Horseshoe Tavern Toronto, ON. Night 1 of 13 (November 10, 2003).

This was the 1st night of their 13 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe.  Rheostatics Live has recordings of nights 1, 3, 4, 5 and 7.

 The sound quality of this show is great, although it’s quite disconcerting how quiet it is between songs—must be soundboard with no audience pick up at all.

Dave chats with the crowd of course: “Always exciting on opening night—a tingle in the air.  We’re basking in the glow of David Miller’s victory tonight even if he doesn’t know the words to “Born to Run.”

David Raymond Miller is the president and CEO of WWF-Canada, the Canadian division of the international World Wildlife Fund. A former politician, Miller was the 63rd Mayor of Toronto from 2003 to 2010. He entered politics as a member of the New Democratic Party, although his mayoral campaign and terms in office were without any formal party affiliation. He did not renew his party membership in 2007.  After declining poll numbers, Miller announced on September 25, 2009, that he would not seek a third term as mayor in the 2010 election, citing family reasons.  He was replaced by Rob frickin Ford.

They play a lot of songs from their not yet released album (not until 2004, in fact) 2067.

They open with “The Tarleks” which is follows by 2001’s “Song of the Garden” and then back to 2067 with “I Dig Music.”  The new songs sound similar to the release but perhaps the words might not be solidified yet—there’s also no “too fucking bad” in “I Dig Music.”

Tim’s “In It Now” comes next with that cool opening riff.   It segues into one of my favorite Tim-sung songs “Marginalized” also from 2067.  I love the drums, the guitar riff, everything about it—although they are off-key as they start.

Dave says, “We’re surprising ourselves a little by playing new stuff.   But when Martin asks for requests and people say “Saskatchewan” Martin starts playing it (see, the squeaky wheel…).

“Fan letter for Ozzy Osbourne” (also from 2067)  it sounds a bit more spare and sad (with no wailing vocal at the end).  It’s followed by “a very old song we wrote in 1989, I think, but it still applies on this special occasion.”  He says it’s called “You can’t go back to Woodstock baby you were just 2 years old you, you weren’t even born.”

There’s a quiet “In This Town” that’s followed by a lengthy “When Winter Comes.”  This song features a remarkably pedestrian guitar solo (sloppy and very un-Martin like).

Dave says they were recording audio commentary from a show two years ago (for what?  is this available somewhere?).  He says that night wasn’t a very good patter night.  Good music night, though.

Tim says, “So we overdubbed good stage banter. … Till I sparked up a fattie and giggled like a moron.”
Martin: “till you sparked up a fattie and the ridiculousness of the situation became glaringly apparent.”
Dave: “Martin I can’t believe you just said ‘sparked up a fattie.'”
Martin: “The times they are a-changing.”

Martin introduces “Aliens” by saying “This would be a b-minor chord.  The whole thing seems a little weird–Martin does some odd voices and weird guitar noises—it almost sounds out of tune or like it’s just the wrong guitar.

Back to a new song with “Polar Bears and Trees” and they have fun chanting the “hey hey ho ho” section.

Dave calms things down with some details: We got some stuff planned over the next 13 days. Lucky 13.  Thursday there’s going to be 25 guest vocalists.  We’re gonna mail it in, basically.  And then on Saturday we have “Tim Vebron and the Rheostars.”  According to a review, this “band” is a goof: “Martin was wearing a lei and suspenders, MPW looked like an extra from THX1138.”   You can also get a pass to all 13 shows for $75.  For some good old live live Canadian shield rock.

Dave asks, “Tim did you get a contact high during aliens?  Some wise acre lit a marijuana cigarette.”  Tim:  “It’s just kicking in now.  I’m hungry.”

“PIN” sound great although in “Legal Age Life,” the sound drops out at 58 seconds and comes back on at 1:35.  During the song, Dave shouts G and they shift to “Crocodile Rock.”  It kind of clunkily falls back in to “LAL,” but it’s fun to see them jamming and exploring a bit.

Dave says “Crocodile Rock” was a very complicate dance, but it didn’t catch on.  I think the dance involved implements didn’t it. Tongs?”

“Stolen Car” starts quietly but builds and builds to a noisy climactic guitar solo.  Its pretty exciting.

During the encore break there’s repeated chants for “Horses.  Horses.”

You can hear Dave say, “‘Soul Glue?’ We’re not going to do that tonight, we’re going to say it for a special occasion.”  The audience member shouts, “the hell with you.” Dave: “Ok, bye. Yes I am going to hell.”

What song do you think cleans the palate for the song to come after it—A sherbet?

There’s some amusing commentary between Dace and the audience.  And then a little more local politics: “Did you think that was good speech by David Miller?  I didn’t. I don’t want to be a bad guy coz it’s his night but…”  Then Dave imagines a “David Miller ascension-to-power film starring Ed Begley Jr.”

The encore includes a rollicking “Satan is the Whistler” followed by a solid cover of The Clash’s “London Calling.”  Tim’s a little sloppy on the bass, but the guitar sound is perfect and Dave’s got the vocal sound just right.  As they leave you can still here that guy calling for “Horses.”

[READ: July 1, 2016] What If We’re Wrong?

I have enjoyed a lot of the essays I’ve read by Klosterman.  But I’ve never read one of his books before.  I saw him on Seth Meyers one night and this book sounded cool.  And then I saw it at work, so I grabbed it .

Klosterman is clever and funny and this book is clever and funny.  Although I found it a little long–every section of the book felt like it could have been shorter and it wouldn’t have lost any impact.  However, I loved the premise and I loved all of the examples.  I just got a little tired of each section before it ended.

So what is this book (with the upside down cover) about?  Well, as the blurb says, our cultural is pretty causally certain about things.  No matter how many times we are wrong, we know exactly how things are going to go. Until they do not go that way any more.  “What once seemed inevitable eventually becomes absurd.”  So what will people think of 2015/16 in 100 years?  And while some things seem like they may be obvious about how tastes change, he also wonders if our ideas about gravity will change.

This came out before the horrors of the 2016 election and I read it before them, so the whole premise of the book is even more magnified. (more…)

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manner SOUNDTRACK: BEN GIBBARD-Tiny Desk Concert #251 (November 19, 2012).

benBen Gibbard is the voice of Death Cab for Cutie.  His voice is instantly recognizable and his melodies are surprisingly catchy.

This Tiny Desk Concert (they say it’s number 250, but I count 251) is just him and his acoustic guitar.  I didn’t know he did solo work, but apparently he does (in addition to being in The Postal Service and All-Time Quarterback).

Gibbard just released a solo album, Former Lives, which he’s said is a repository for material that didn’t work as Death Cab for Cutie songs; from that record, only “Teardrop Windows” pops up in his Tiny Desk Concert. For the rest, he draws from Death Cab’s most recent album (“St. Peter’s Cathedral,” from Codes and Keys) and, of all places, last year’s Arthur soundtrack (“When the Sun Goes Down on Your Street”).

As mentioned he plays three songs and his voice is so warm and familiar I felt like I knew these songs even if I didn’t.

I knew “St. Peter’s Cathedral.” It is a lovely song with very little in the way of chord changes.  But the melody is gentle and pretty.  And the song appears to be entirely about this church.  Which is interesting because the second song is also about a building in Seattle.  “Teardrop Windows” is a surprisingly sad song about an inanimate object.  It’s written from the building’s point of view as he mourns that no one uses him anymore.  And such beautiful lyrics too:

Once built in boast as the tallest on the coast he was once the city’s only toast / In old postcards was positioned as the star, he was looked up to with fond regard / But in 1962 the Needle made its big debut and everybody forgot what it outgrew

The final song “When the Sun Goes Down on Your Street” was indeed for the Russel Brand movie Arthur.  Somehow I can’t picture those two together.  It’s a lovely song, too.

I prefer Gibbard’s more upbeat and fleshed out music, but it’s great to hear him stripped down as well.

[READ: January 2017] “My Writing Education: A Time Line,” “The Bravery of E.L. Doctorow,” “Remembering Updike,” and “Offloading for Mrs. Schwartz” 

I had been planning to have my entire month of February dedicated to children’s books.  I have a whole bunch that I read last year and never had an opportunity to post them.  So I thought why not make February all about children’s books.  But there is just too much bullshit going on in our country right now–so much hatred and ugliness–that I felt like I had to get this post full of good vibes out there before I fall completely into bad feelings myself. It;s important to show that adults can be kind and loving, despite what our leaders demonstrate.  Fortunately most children’s books are all about that too, so the them holds for February.

George Saunders is a wonderful writer, but he is also a very kind human being.  Despite his oftentimes funny, sarcastic humor, he is a great humanitarian and is always very generous with praise where it is warranted.

The other day I mentioned an interview with Saunders at the New York Times.  Amid a lot of talk with and about Saunders, there is this gem:

Junot Díaz described the Saunders’s effect to me this way: “There’s no one who has a better eye for the absurd and dehumanizing parameters of our current culture of capital. But then the other side is how the cool rigor of his fiction is counterbalanced by this enormous compassion. Just how capacious his moral vision is sometimes gets lost, because few people cut as hard or deep as Saunders does.”

These first three pieces are all examples of his love and respect for other writers–both for their skill and for their generosity.

“My Writing Education: A Time Line”

“My Writing Education” comes from a book called A Manner of Being: Writers on Their Mentors.  Saunders’ mentor was Tobias Wolff.  And for this essay, his admiration takes the form of a diary.  (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: November 20, 2013] “The Dating Game” podcast

outkoudIn the second New Yorker fiction podcast, Edwidge Danticat doesn’t read Díaz’s story but rather she discusses it and her connection to Díaz after listening to the audio from the New Yorker Out Loud 2 CD (the story is read by Junot Díaz with Gail Thomas doing the female voices).

I have yet to read Díaz’s Drown (for no real reason, I just haven’t), which is where this story appears.  And I enjoyed that this story is written in the same style as his later stories about Junior (sure, I suppose he will need to move beyond Junior as a character but it seems like he has plenty of stories to tell).  And I found this story unsettling and very enjoyable.

The story is a funny/obnoxious (I mean, re-read the title) story about, as the title suggests, how to date a girl–there are different specifics depending on her race (white girls will put out, but local girls you need to take to the fancy restaurant).  And be sure to take the government cheese out of the fridge so she doesn’t see it–but be damn sure to put it back before your mom gets home.

The reading is wonderful and having Thomas do the female voices really adds a nice touch.  I would say more about the story, but Danticat says a lot of what I was thinking about it.  (more…)

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What might one expect from a Mogwai DVD?  Well, what one gets is a high contrast black and white concert with excellent sound (I have since burned the audio on a CD).

The film zooms in on the players–the guitar necks, the cymbals–and occasional two or three person shots (but very rarely faces).

The faces come in the interstitials, where the filmmakers show the band walking around (getting on subways–walking in rain), and where they talk to fans.

The film is gorgeously shot, but I have to admit it’s not the kind of live show that I enjoy watching.  It’s a little dull–not in individual moments because just about every shot is gorgeous, but in five-minute blocks.  Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing how these guys make this wall of music.  I love watching Stuart’s hands on the neck of his guitar, but this is not a very mobile bunch.  Indeed, many of the people in the audience seem to just be closing their eyes and absorbing the music rather than watching them.  And I found myself doing the same thing (in which case, I would just get an audio concert, right?).  This is compounded by the fact that the camera is in so tight, any big movements are missed.

This is not to say that there aren’t moments of brilliance to see.  Watching the band wait and wait and wait as the chords from “Fear Satan” fade out before they blast into the finale is pretty darn awesome.  And there are moments like that–crisp clarity where everything comes together.

Some kind souls have put the entire show on YouTube.  Here’s part 3 (with “Fear Satan”)

And the fan who speaks over the closing credits is trippy but cool.

[READ: July 31, 2012] “The Places You Find Yourself”

I found this story because a reader left a comment that Junot Díaz’ story ”The Cheater’s Guide to Love” was just like this one.

I have to disagree almost entirely with that sentiment because Díaz’ story talks about what it is like after someone has broken up with you and this story is about being stuck in a relationship that you feel compelled to get out of.

Edwards’ story (which won the 2009 Open City Rrofihe Trophy) is about settling.  And it’s a very realistic portrayal of the frustrations of life: relationships, job, commute–it’s a rather cathartic story.  It is especially cathartic because there is no main character, only “you.”  And Edwards keeps this second person narrator throughout the story.

The story is set up as a series of monogamous relationships: “Then one morning you’ll wake up and there will be another one lying next to you, maybe this one a brunette…” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MOGWAI-Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait-An Original Soundtrack by Mogwai (2006).

It’s no secret that I love Mogwai.  I like them so much that I even track down soundtracks to obscure films that I’ll never watch.  (Of course, since Mogwai play mostly instrumentals, soundtrack work suits them quite well).

The Zidane of the film is Zinedine Zidane, a French footballer whom many consider to be the greatest ever (don’t yell at me for that, I don’t have an opinion of the man).  I had to look up exactly what the film is about and I have to say I’m intrigued: The film is a documentary focused on Zidane during the Spanish Liga Real Madrid vs. Villarreal CF game on April 23, 2005 at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium and was filmed in real time using 17 synchronized cameras.  I watched a couple minutes on YouTube, and indeed it is a football match.   How on earth did they decide on that game (in which Zidane is ejected for fighting as the match nears its end).

The music is designed primarily for background and pacing, although there are certainly moments of great melody as well.  There are three songs that are more or less played twice (with different variations): “Terrific Speech 2″ and Terrific Speech” “Half Time and “Time and a Half” are similar piano melodies, and the opener and closer “Black Spider” and “Black Spider 2.”  “Black Spider 2” opens with the same melody as 1, but this song is thirty minutes long.  After a few moments of silence, it tuns into 17 minutes of quiet noise.  The remaining five experiment with distant feedback squalls.  Not loud and crazy, but something that creates a lot of tension, which goes with the end of the film.

Despite the titles, “Wake Up and Go Berserk” and “I Do Have Weapons” are a mellow songs.  They’re very pretty tracks.  Indeed, there’s nothing too wild at all here.  Fans of Mogwai’s wilder music will be a little disappointed.   And indeed, the overall feel is almost kind of sleepy, but it really captures another side of Mogwai, and the music is quite good.

[READ: June 20, 2012] “The Cheater’s Guide to Love”

Not bad… Junot Díaz had a story in the New Yorker just a few weeks ago, and now he’s got another one.

The familiar criticism of Díaz is that he writes the same story over and over (well, the other criticism is that he always writes in Spanish and English, but I think that’s a stupid complaint).  So here’s another story about Yunior and how he cheats on women and is basically a shit-heel.

While there is some validity to criticizing an author for retelling the same basic story, it is not unheard of in art.  Monet, for instance painted over 30 paintings of Rouen Cathedral.  And while they are all the same composition, individually they are very different.  Here’s four paintings (not prints a la Andy Warhol):

While I’m not suggesting that Díaz is on par with Monet, I am trying to say that you can work with a similar subject and create very different pieces of art.

So, yes it’s another Yunior story and yes, Yunior has cheated on his girlfriend again.  But this story is constructed differently.  And at this point I’m starting to wonder if maybe there aren’t multiple Yuniors–I’ll even think of them as in alternate realities.  Because Yunior sure has cheated on a lot of women by this time.

It makes him the perfect writer for “The Cheater’s Guide to Love.”

Unlike in the other stories, this one takes place over five years!  In Year 0 you are caught cheating by your girl (the story is set in second person).  She sticks it out with you for a time and then dumps your ass.  I liked how it was revealed just how many women he had cheated in her with over the years that they were together–he really is a shit.

In Year 1, you act like it doesn’t matter, but it does.  And you are crushed.  Your friends try to help out, but how much can they really do?  You think suicidal thoughts and imagine that that will make her forgive you.  It doesn’t.  By year 2, you have met someone.  But you find some bullshit reason (she hasn’t put out yet) and you break it off and go into another spiral.

Year 3 sees you looking after yourself–running and fitness.  In what I think of as a wholly accurate happening, you injure yourself running and are knocked back on your ass for months–momentum and caring are gone.  You look for substitutes but nothing feels as good as running.  So you stop.  And you let yourself go.

What I also liked about this story is that despite this background of the break up, there are other interesting things spiraling around Yunior.   There’s a fascinating look at racism in Boston (perceived or real?); there’s the woman who claims to be the mother of his child, the woman back in the DR who claims to be the mother of his friend Elvis’s son.  Both men act very differently to the news.  Elvis is thrilled to have a son, Yunior is freaked by this woman.  This is probably the first time that I’ve seen Díaz have a woman do behave the way they do in this story.  It’s also interesting to compare Yunior and Elvis by the end of the story.

I also got a kick out of all the women he used to cheat on his girlfriend with star getting married and they all start sending him invitations: “Revenge is living well, without you.”  Year 5 sees a completion of the spiral for all parties.  And a cool resolution to this story.

Much like with the Monet paintings, if  Díaz can keep his Yunior stories interesting (and varied enough), I will keep reading them.

For ease of searching I include: Junot Diaz, Bernabeu

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SOUNDTRACK: NOW,NOW-“Thread” (2012).

I really enjoyed Now, Now’s last single “Dead Oaks” quite a lot, and here’s another one.  A beautiful shoegazer song, hints of My Bloody Valentine, hints of early Lush.  The singer has a great voice soaring over the chugging and swirling guitar chords.

The song is smooth and dreamy, but when the guitar solo comes in, it’s kind of jagged and really unexpected–a nice treat to keep a sing from becoming too obvious.

“Now, Now” is kind of a crazy name for a band–i assumed that it would be difficult for search engines to find them.  But no.  Type in now now and there they are.

[READ: June 20, 2012] “Monstro”

I’ve read a bunch of stories by Díaz, and I was a little surprised to see him in a sci-fi issue.  Although his characters are typically nerdy sci-fi fantasy geeks, his stories are pretty much all about reality–scoring women, losing money, fighting cancer, getting women back.  And, that’s what this story is about too.

One thing that I especially liked about the story is that it is such a conventional Díaz story–his main character g0es to the Dominican Republic to be with his ailing mom.  (They live in the States but her medical costs would be much cheaper there).  So he goes to the DR for the summer.  And he meets up with a fellow Brown student who just happens to be a Very Important Person in the DR (he’s related to the 99th most wealthy person on the planet).  And this guy, Alex, hooks him up well–he gives the narrator the royal treatment all over the country.  Alex also introduces him to Mysty, the most beautiful woman he has ever seen.

And so they spend the summer together.  The narrator knows that Mysty is out of his league, but he lusts after her anyhow.  He confirms with Alex several times that the two of them are not an item, and that seems to be true. It’s clear that Mysty likes him–he doesn’t put up with Alex’s shit or with hers, but it’s also clear that they will never be together.

Díaz doesn’t skimp on the story either–we learn all about Alex’s background (and the fact that despite all of his wealth, he’s not coasting–he’s pulling down a 4.0 from Brown).  We also learn all about Mysty–her history, her desires and her disdain for the Dominican Republic.  And, naturally we learn all about the narrators mother–what’s wrong with her, how she’s coping and how she’s tells him that he doesn’t have  to stick around–he’s not doing her any favors.  And so he leaves her to have fun with his friends.  As he says, “What an asshole, right? What a shallow motherfucker.  But I was nineteen–and what is nineteen, if not for shallow?” (more…)

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My coworker sent me a link to this Garfunkel & Oates song.  Garfunkel and Oates is a comedy folk team comprised of Kate Micucci and Riki Lindhome.  This song was featured on Scrubs (seriously) because Micucci played “Gooch,” creepy Ted’s girlfriend on the show.

The song is kind of sweet and funny, but also rather dirty (just like Scrubs).

This version is under two minutes, but there’s a new version (complete with kazoo solo) on their website.  The new version plays up the confusion of the kiss you/fuck you chorus a little more with some very funny lines.  You can also see a bunch of their other funny, catch, dirty songs like: “Gay Boyfriend,” “Sex with Ducks” and “This Party Took a Turn for the Douche.”

So cute!

[READ: April 20, 2012] “Miss Lora”

Junot Díaz is back with another short story–I smell a collection coming out soon.

This one is about Yunior and his brother who died of cancer (as most of his stories are).  But in this one, his brother is more of a presence than an actual character.

For this story is all about Yunior and his lengthy affair with Miss Lora.  Miss Lora was a neighborhood older woman–not too old, but certainly older than the kids.  She was super skinny–totally flat in front and back–but she was very muscular.  She liked showing off her gymnasts’ body in a bikini.  The women (like Yunior’s mom) didn’t think much of her in town, but she didn’t seem to care.

And, although she wasn’t all that much to look at, Yunior developed a bit of a crush on her.  And then one day he realized it was mutual.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ULVER-Teachings In Silence (2002).

This EP is a collection of Ulver’s two previous limited edition EPs: Silence Teaches You How to Sing and Silencing the Singing.  It was originally released as a limited edition of 1000 copies, but has since been given wide release.  The two EPs that it replaced were officially retired (after print runs of 2000 and 3000 respectively).

“Silence Teaches You How to Sing” seems like perhaps Ulver has pulled a fast one.  The song starts with static…waves of static.  And you think, what, 24 minutes of THIS?  But after about four minutes, some quiet guitars layer through the static.  By 5 minutes a melody emerges, rather Twin Peaks theme-like.  Static resumes and then another wave of music bursts through and then, around 11 minutes, distant voices can be heard.  As the track nears the end you can hear a distant choir.  And by the end you’re listening so intently that you hear all kinds of things.

That was the only track on the first EP.  The second EP had three shorter tracks.  They are in a similar style to Silence, although there is more music.  “Darling Didn’t We Kill You” has a somber guitar melody and distant choral voices or a buzzing drone.

“Speak Dead Speaker” is more static (it’s easy to see why these two EPs were bundled together).  There’s more Twin Peaks style washes over the static.  I keep picturing the Pacific Northwest.  The last two minutes are a surprise cello version of the themes from the first 7 minutes.  It’s lovely and sorrowful.

The final track is a beautiful melody that repeats itself more and more quietly (with a wonderful loud funeral bell keeping time).  It repeats its cycle three times before ending.

Ulver continues to confound listeners.  Neither one of these EPs is really essential, but they are both interesting and really create a mood.

[READ: November 3, 2011] “Nilda”

This is the final uncollected story (according to Wikipedia anyhow) by Junot Díaz that I was able to access online.  There are two more stories “Invierno” (Glimmer Train 1998) and “Flaca” (Story, Autumn 1999) that I can’t seem to access online.  The rest of the listed short stories appear in Drown

This story is about longing and making the wrong choices.  Having read a bunch of Junot Díaz stories lately, this feels very much like a story he would write (I probably should have read Drown before I read these stories, but when I get to it, I’ll be able to confirm my suspicions).

In this story, Yunior, who is evidently the constant narrator in his earlier works (and in Oscar Wao) knows Nilda from school.  She was a friend of his–a kind of teasable friend–until puberty hit and her chest was to die for.  Unfortunately for Yunior, they were already friends, and she was off with other boys.

Indeed, Nilda was trouble more or less from the start–“brown trash,” he calls her.  Her mother was an alcoholic and Nilda was defiant.  She even spent time in a group home.  But she was nice and easy to talk to.  Dammit, why did she have to start dating Yunior’s brother Rafa? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ULVER-Perdition City: An Interior Soundtrack (2000).

Uver’s previous EP hinted at what would come next–electronic ambient tunes.  But it didn’t quite prepare anyone for this–a soundtrack to a film that doesn’t exist.  And yet with a title like Perdition City, you can pretty well anticipate the music that’s coming: think noir.

It is more electronica, and yet it is not just electronica.  The opening song “Lost in Moments” has a saxophone (!) solo.  And the song sounds like a perfect David Lynch/noir soundtrack to a dark and stormy night. 

What’s novel about the approach are the electronic noises and eccentric drum beats that punctuate the track.  The second track, “Porn Piece or The Scars of Cold Kisses” is broken into two parts: the first is a low, rumbling section with skittery noises and the second part has soulful singing (Garm, the only consistent member of Ulver (who goes by a different name on just about every record) has a surprising range of voices at his disposal).

“Hallways of Always,” “Tomorrow Never Knows” and “The Future Sound of Music” are sort of ambient tracks.  “Hallways” is quiet while “Future” grows in volume and chaos as the song proceeds.  “Tomorrow” is the most menacing of the three, projecting a state of noise and tension.  The interesting thing about these tracks is that although they seem like pretty conventional electronic instrumentals, they are actually fairly complicated in detail.  Some of the electronic pieces go on a bit too long, but as they are meant to be atmospheric rather than narrative, I guess that’s okay.

“We Are the Dead” bring in vocals again.  This time, it’s a spoken word narration over distorted radio voices.  And “Dead City Centers” also brings back some vocals.  Although only after about 4 minutes of noises and tension.  This time the vocals are more ominous (as the music grows more intense).

“Catalept” is the most interesting track on the disc–a remix of music from Psycho.  While the final song “Nowhere/Catastrophe” is an actual song–verses and vocals!  It’s a fairly soft song but it has moments of darkness that are quite cool. 

As a soundtrack this works wonders.  And if Ulver wanted to get into the soundtrack business, apparently their model of “making up your own soundtrack” worked.  Since this release they have recorded the soundtracks for two external films. 

As an overall release it’s a bit all over the place–jazzy sax, electronica, spoken word.  The mood is pretty consistent though, and although I don’t think I would do what the liner notes recommend: “This is music for the stations before and after sleep.  Headphones and darkness recommended,” I still enjoyed it.

[READ:  November 5, 2011] “Alma”

This is a very short story that falls pretty squarely into standard Junot Díaz territory (he says, having read like four pieces by him). 

I’m fascinated by these stories because Díaz is all about women being super hot and yet they are never objectified.  Well, in some ways they are of course–he lingers over their bodies as he describes them, but they are never just a body.  They are often smart or interesting, they are strong and powerful, and even when they are victimized (some by cheating boyfriends, others by far worse), they either fight back or get themselves to safety.  It’s nice to read about powerful women,even if the point of view is from her boyfriend.

This is the story of a young man falling hard for a hot woman (with a beautiful ass).  What fascinates me about Junot Díaz’s stories is that the women that his narrators fall for are Dominican, but they are also alternative to their culture.  So in this case, Alma is a “Sonic Youth, comic-book-reading alternatina” which makes me like her already. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ULVER-Metamorphosis EP (1999).

After Ulver’s first CD, they jumped around in genres (their second was a kind of folk CD and their third CD was more black metal–I have not heard either one).  Their 4th CD was the William Blake CD of crazed experimental music.  And then they released this EP.  And I can’t think of too many bands who keep their fans guessing as much as these guys do.  This EP is full on electronica.  Dark electronica, yes, but still, it’s all electronic.

There are four songs.  The first one, “Of Wolves and Vibrancy” is like  rocking dance song from the 90s (like The Prodigy).  The drums are quite intense.  While the second song, “Gnosis” is a slower, more ambient track. There are still loud drums, but the pace is slower and less manic. At around the 6 minutes mark vocals come in.  They sound like some of Metallica’s chanting voices on later albums.

Track three, “Limbo Central (Theme from Perdition City)” is less than 4 minutes long.  It’ s another dark electronic soundtrack with more great drums. 

The final song, “Of Wolves and Withdrawal” is almost 9 minutes of very quiet noises that grow louder in pulses. It seems to be three sections of different pulsing sounds.  The first time I listened to it, the opening was so quiet that I thought it was just all silence so I fast forwarded through the whole thing.  But because the pulses are so mechanically timed it didn’t even register as noises while as fast forwarded.  I finally had to turn it up pretty loud before I heard all of it. 

I was tempted to say that going from that first Ulver album to this one is a massive change.  But it seems that every Ulver record is a whiplash of stylistic changes.  Nevertheless, this is about as far from black metal as you can get and still be dark and scary.

[READ: November 4, 2011] “The Sun, The Moon, The Stars”

This is one of Díaz’s short stories that does not appear in Drown (it came out about two years after Drown).  It has been frequently anthologized, however, which makes it a pretty important story.

There’s a reason why I like to read author’s works in chronological order, and reading this story now confirms that for me.  The story, written in 1998, is the fictionalization of the essay, “Homecoming with Turtle” that I reviewed a few weeks ago (the one that I said pertained to Oscar Wao because of the turtle).  Well, there’s no turtle in this story, and there’s no dentists, but the rest of the story is pretty much the same as his nonfiction account.

After saying all of that though, what’s fun about reading this out of order is that since I know what the “truth” is about this situation, it’s fun to see what he has massaged into fiction.

So in this story, Yunior has been dating Magdalena for some time.  Magda is a good girl: wouldn’t sleep with him until they had been dating awhile, took him to church, introduced him to her parents, the whole bit.  And he really loves her.  The problem is that they only see each other once a week.

So, when a hot girl starts working at his office and she tells him that her man doesn’t treat her well and Yunior confides that the sex with Magda isn’t very good, well, things happen.  But they didn’t happen very often or for very long and Yunior tried to forget it.  Until the girl sent Magda a letter.  A very detailed letter. (more…)

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