Archive for the ‘Marisa Silver’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: SON LUX-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #200 (April 28, 2021).

Robin Hilton is a huge fan of Son Lux and it was his gushing that got me to check them out.

The band is absolutely incredible.  Ryan Lott started the band as a solo project.  He is the composer and singer (with an otherworldly voice and sensibility).  Guitarist Rafiq Bhatia, plays pretty melodies and then turns the same guitar into an instrument of noise.  Sometimes at the same time.

And then there’s drummer Ian Chang.  He is utterly mesmerizing to watch.  It’s not that he does things that other drummers don’t do–he just has his own sense of where beats should go.  And I love watching how he puts them there.  Ian Chang was supposed to open for Half Waif in 2019 and I wanted to go to the show mostly to see what Chang would be like as the main performer.

I had tickets to a Son Lux show and was really excited to go and then something came up and I was out of town.

But I can simply enjoy this concert.  And Robin’s excitement about it.

Watch this stunning “home” Tiny Desk performance from Son Lux and you might conclude the band members live together in an all-white universe without walls or boundaries. But it’s all an illusion. In fact, guitarist Rafiq Bhatia, drummer Ian Chang and singer-keyboardist Ryan Lott, who started Son Lux as a solo project back in 2008, each shot their own, separate video with their iPhones, at different times, at their homes scattered across different states. So did the guest vocalists, Nina Moffitt and Kiah Victoria. Editor Evan Chapman then stitched all the videos together.  The effect is dizzying and sometimes disorienting.

 Together – and alone – they’ve perfectly captured the upside-down world we’ve been living in this past year, where the lines between what’s real and imagined are blurred, all sense of place fades into the ether and the normally predictable rhythms of life come undone.

“Prophecy” opens with a bass line (which is actually Bhatia playing  seemingly simple guitar line.  Lott starts singing and then throws in some synths.   Once Chang hits a snare drums the voices seems to descend like they are falling to earth.  And from there, the melody continues with little guitar notions and gorgeous (and surreal) backing vocals from.  An unfussy but complicated drum fill transitions t the second half of the song.

superimposed images flicker and warble over one another against Bhatia’s skittering guitar lines. Everything is bent and a little off – intentionally, not because of the production challenges – and nothing sounds quite like you expect it to.

Near the end of the song we see Bhatia’s guitars one on top of the of the from the same angle–playing different things.

“Only” opens with an operatic voice and Lott’s keyboard as images flicker in an out.  Chang’s drums seem to roll as he uses brushes (rolling the stick on the rim of the drum) and plays short sharp fills–following perfectly Bhatia’s guitar.  And with the bass drum hits Chang flashes on screen in time.

Watch Bhatia’s all-too-short solo on “Only”

It’s simple and almost all static but it adds so much to this unsettled song.  As it does a the end of the song when the guitar seems to try to take over with the noises he’s making.  It’s easy to lose the beautiful keyboard melody that Lott is playing underneath as he sings in a clear, deeper voice: “I need a different kind of love.”

[Watch] Lott as he walks his fingers over the keys near the beginning of “Vacancy.”

The sounds are otherworldly and don’t seem like they are made by human hands.  So when Chang’s drums kick in (is he hitting the microphone or his lap?) it’s a shock of reality.

The players fade out visually so that Kiah Victoria can come in and sing lead for a verse–her voice is perfect.

The end part of the song features Bhatia paying the main melody on the guitar while the rest of the music seems to float in and  out.

The setlist for this performance includes a song from each of the band’s last three albums, a trilogy released over the past eight months, called Tomorrows III and III.

There’s really nothing quite like a Son Lux song.

[READ: June 1, 2021] “Old Enough”

The June 11 issue of the New Yorker had several essays under the heading “Summer Movies.”   Each one is a short piece in which the author (many of whom I probably didn’t know in 2007 but do know now) reflects on, well, summer movies.

Like Miranda July’s essay, this one is about the author’s first film.  Although for Marisa Silver it’s a feature film.

She had broken up with her significant other and the day before she started shooting, she went to get her essentials.  She promised herself that she would not get into it with the guy–she would be cordial and quick.   But instead, she found her stuff in the garbage out front:

everything I owned overflowing the twin garbage cans that fronted my old building

(this including school report cards she had felt the need to bring with her). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TIWA SAVAGE-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #72 (August 31, 2020).

I don’t know who Tiwa Savage is.  Although apparently she is quite well- known.  Savage is

a veteran R&B and Afrobeat singer who began her career at age 11.  For her Tiny Desk (Home) Concert, Tiwa Savage returned, from London, to her birthplace of Lagos, Nigeria. She and The Alternative Sound band set up at the beautiful Jazzhole, a historic vinyl shop well-regarded among record collectors for the rarities within.

After Billie Eilish’s fake backdrop of the NPR office, this backdrop does have an NPR office feel, too.

With floor-to-ceiling shelves packed with books and albums as a backdrop, it certainly seems familiar to us, too — reminiscent of our performance cubicle at NPR HQ.

She plays four songs.  I really like Kenneth Ogueji’s bass sound throughout–very fluid and grooving.

On “Dangerous Love” she “speaks to matters of the heart.”  The song has a lot of high guitar notes from Phillip Akinkuande–fills and trills that flesh out the song nicely.  I also really like how a few times the song seems to smooth to a halt, just to pick up in unison again.

She says “I want you to vibe with us a little longer. I want to bring some Afrobeat to your screens.”

“Attention” has a nice, complex drum opening from Stanley Unogu and some very cool bass fills and runs.  There’s a lot of piano on this song, although I don’t know if it’s from Gospel Obi or Orowo Ubiene.

She sings the Reekado Banks single “Like” that she featured on.  This song is kind of odd as she keeps singing “Go go shorty it’s your birthday.”

She ends the set with “Koroba,” her newest single.  The song “blends her native Yoruba language with Nigerian Pidgin English, underpinned by a catchy, feel-good rhythm.”

This is the danceyest and most fun song of the set.

[READ: August 31, 2020] “Gunsmoke”

I really enjoyed this story.

It begins with the narrator, Alice, saying that her father has a gun and won’t come out of his house.

She received a call from a policeman telling her that her father has not made payments on his house recently and he is about to be evicted.  And yet there he sits with his gun, pointing it at the cops.

It turns out that this particular policeman, Bobby, is someone she slept with in high school. So they have a bit of a history.  She messes with him a bit (her dad has always been eccentric), but Bobby is serious.  He asks if she will get involved. She says she’ll call him.  But he has cut the phone lines.  Shit.

Alice’s father was a stunt man in the movies.  He worked mostly in Westerns in the fifties and sixties.  I love this insight into the world of the stunt man.  He could fall off of a horse, or a building or just about anything.  His only flaw was that he was quite short, but that didn’t stop him from getting work–make up and camera angles could make up the difference.

In one movie there was a battle between the Indians and the Army.  He dressed as a Comanche for one of the shots then changed into a lieutenant’s uniform for the other.  In the final product, “there was a scene of a heavily made up Indian pulling a soldier off a horse.  The Indian stabbed the soldier in the chest with a knife at close range.  The final two closeups of the victor and the vanquished revealed them both to be my father.

Alice also works in films, although when people ask her about it they are inevitably disappointed.  She does post-production voice over work.  She was in Titanic–she was the screams of some people drowning and the chewing in the eating room scenes.

She arrives at her father’s house.  The police are still there.  She knocks on the door and immediately has to tell her dad it’s her so he doesn’t shoot her.

She only visits her dad once a year and he looks a lot older each year–desert rats don’t age well.   She offers to help him pack up and move but he won’t put the gun down.  She’s not really afraid of him, just concerned.

Later she heads out to the store to get some decent food for dinner (he only has soup).  She sees Bobby in the store and they catch up.  He says he’s on his night off from his wife–she says they are in rut so they need to bring new experiences to the marriage. He is supposed to go to the movies and come home and talk about it with her.

So Alice and Bobby go to the movies together.  They watch a movie in which she is the laughter of a girl on screen and then later: “That’s my kissing sound…tongue and everything.”  When he shouts to the crowd that she is the kisser in the movie, she covers his mouth with her hand.  When he licks her skin, they of course end up making out in his car.

The next morning, Alice’s father has to make a decision.  When the police tell him to vacate, he cocks his gun.  Is this a stunt?

I really enjoyed that there were so many great details in this story–some of them didn’t really pertain to the plot but which fleshed out the story really nicely.

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a0649002429_16Kawabata Makoto [河端一] is the guitarist and mastermind behind Acid Mothers Temple. The band is hugely prolific. But he still had time to record solo albums. Often times without any guitar.

This was Kawabata’s third solo LP, now available on bandcamp

Third volume in an acclaimed series by the Acid Mothers Temple leader. INUI 3 focuses on Kawabata’s highly personal brand of epic instrumental drone. Performing on bouzouki, sarangi, electric guitar, viola, and ECS-101, Makoto emphasizes the gradual build of monumental sound structures. Running 12 minutes each, “Sui” and “Ken” are darkly spun tales, with wisps of sound keening over a distant backdrop. Recalling the Speed Guru’s lovely 2001 collaboration with Richard Youngs, the 47 minute “Fuku” is based on a hypnotic arpeggio plucked out on the bouzouki over which Gong-style glissando guitar and other zonked sounds are carefully layered.

Sui (12.33) over a drone it sounds like he’s playing a hammered dulcimer, but I gather it is the bouzouki.  There’s a very pretty melody which seems to morph into a reverse-sounding musical style after about 5 minutes.  These pulsing waves slowly shift into washes of synths over the drone.

Ken (12.35) starts was a drone–whether electronic or acoustic is hard to tell.  Waves of sound like waves swoop through this rather relaxing piece.

Fuku (47.08) has more of that hammered bouzouki style of playing.  It’s a lovely melody with a drone behind it.  After 9 minutes the backing chords change the texture of the song.  Around 11 minutes the melody starts to grow slightly discordant as the backing chords start to morph and the bouzouki plays some discordant notes.

The discord seems to weave in an out–never growing too harsh, just enough to give the song some tension.

Around 30 minutes, waves of electronics start to take over, there’s a slightly sinister sound to them.  By the end things get a little intense and it feels like the closing credits to a dramatic film.

It’s amazing that he can keep this up for 47 minutes.

[READ: September 10, 2019] “What I Saw From the Forest”

In this story Charles and Dulcie have been together for a while.  They lost their baby when Dulcie was six months pregnant.  It was nobody’s fault but Dulcie can’t help but try to figure out what she did wrong.

Their relationship has been prickly ever since.

Dulcie hates to drive on freeways–she doesn’t like that she can’t exit when she wants, so they tend to take back roads.  They had been to a party and Charles was too drunk to drive home so Dulcie drove his car.

He woke up when they were rear-ended.  It was a a group of young men with a gun.  They asked for the keys.  Charles gave them the keys and his wallet and then he and Dulcie ran.  The police promised them they would not see their car again.  When Dulcie worried that they would come to their house since the registration was in the car, the policeman said not to worry, “crackheads never did that.”

Dulcie took a few days off (she was a teacher) so Charles drove her car to work.  When he got home she had moved the mattress into the living room.  There was a rat in the bedroom walls.  They could hear it and had gotten used to it because when they told the landlord he said he would take care of it –which means “there’re ten other people in line for your apartment.”

She insisted on leaving the lights on all night.  She even talked about getting an inflatable person to sit in a chair to let people think someone was home.

The next evening as he was driving home, someone threw an egg at his car.  He freaked out until he realized it was Halloween.  They hadn’t bought any candy, so when he got home Dulcie was cowering saying people kept ringing the doorbell and she couldn’t trust anyone.

A week after the holdup, police called to say their car was found. It was in a lot in South Central.  The policeman asked if he was white.  Charles said yes, and the polieman said to go early in the morning before “wake-up time.”  They arrived and the car was stripped–even the steering wheel–so they turned it in rather than having it towed.

Charles took a day off from work.  He drove to a park and sat, thinking.  He realized he could either stay or go.  He had a decision to make.


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I’ve been hearing a lot about Mattiel–she (they) were even supposed to open for a show I as going to (but they were replaced at some point).  I thought I didn’t know their music, but when they played the last song of this set “Keep the Change” that I realized I’d heard it on WXPN quite a lot.

This is another set where the blurb is off.  It mentions the song “Heck Fire” which they didn’t play and only lists four songs in the setlist when, indeed, there were five.

Mattiel‘s five-song set [gave] their audience a taste of Satis Factory, their upcoming June release. Lead singer Mattiel Brown was backed by a four-piece band that really knows how to rock.

Their set began with “Rescue You.” Brown wasted no time getting started; her energy was immediately through the roof as she commanded the crowd’s attention with soulful yelps.

I am rather puzzled by what Mattiel actually plays.  They are described as garage rock and I guess that’s true.  Although this song has a real honky-tonk feel, bordering on an outlaw country vibe.

The second song “Je Ne Me Connais Pas” is indeed sung in French ( I wondered why I couldn’t understand the chanted chorus.  It’s primarily a sharp repeated guitar melodies.  The full band kicks in during the catchy chorus.

“Food for Thought” opens with a slow bass and a lurching melody.  I really started to like them by this song.  Things slowed down slightly for “Millionaire” which has a grungy riff and a chanted oh oh oh

The set concluded with “Keep the Change”, the first single that Mattiel released.

It’s an obvious single–upbeat and catchy with  a sweet guitar melody and a sing along chorus:

I’ve wasted all my time
Don’t pay me any mind.

I’ll bet they are fun live.

[READ: June 1, 2020] “The Passenger”

This story takes a surprising twist that turns it from one thing into something else–without ever losing the tone and ideas behind the original idea.

I was intrigued to read this opening line.  I guess in 2000 it was timely, now in 2020 it seems so passe.

I have a ring in my nose and a ring in my navel, and people make assumptions about me.  None of them are true.  I’m not a punk or slave, a biker chick or a fashion bug.

A slave?

The narrator, Babe is 23.  She drives a limo around Los Angeles.  Her dispatcher is darkly humorous–possibly the only thing that can get her through the day.

She has a pickup at LAX (Ex-Lax).  They are a couple named Chin.  This was written before 9/11 so it’s interesting how much grief she is given at the airport even before then. (more…)

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CV1_TNY_12_17_12Sorel.inddSOUNDTRACK: ANTLERS-Live at MusicFestNorthWest, September 10, 2011 (2011).

antlermfnwIt took me a few listens to really appreciate this band.  The initial problem is that I thought they were someone else when I downloaded the show.  I was expecting something a bit more chaotic.  But Antlers play rather pretty alt rock–mildly orchestral with soaring vocals (especially on “Hounds,” which really showcases the singer’s range).  But their music is also kind of somber, not my favorite style.

This concert was recorded during MusicfestNorthWest and comes from The Doug Fir.  All of the songs are from their 2011 disc Burst Apart.  Their previous album Hospice was critically acclaimed, but I didn’t want t listen to a concept album about a person with bone cancer.  Anyhow, this set has a retro 90s pop alt rock feel, and any one of these songs could have a been a slow dance hit at goth clubs.

The set is 28 minutes and I have grown to like it quite a bit.  You can check it out here.  I also have a full length concert that I downloaded from them.  I’ll have to see if their music holds up for an hour as well.

[READ: December 15, 2012] “Creatures”

This story was really well done.  When the reveal is finally given at the end I was genuinely shocked.  And not because the author didn’t earn the shock but because of the wonderful way the story was foreshadowed as well as obfuscated.  There were several possible outcomes, but  I didn’t expect the one we received.

This story is about guns and children (I know, the timing is terrible).  As the story opens we learn that a couple’s little boy is being violent in school.  He’s three and he is in preschool, but he is running around “shooting” at people with a stick.  He in particular seems to pick on one boy (who he ultimately winds up biting).  The parents feel that the school is overreacting, because they don’t allow their child to play with toy guns and they have never see anything but sweetness out of him. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CLUES-Clues [CST057] (2009).

cluesThis is another of my favorite recent Constellation Records CDs.  Clues remind me of Mercury Rev, if they had remained a more indie/underpolished band instead of their more recent orchestrated pop.  The lead singer sounds a but like Jonathan Donahue (and sometimes Wayne Coyne from the Flaming Lips) and the band in general plays the sort of unusual pop that these bands have made common.

Every song on this disc is a winner.  It’s even hard for me to pick a favorite, although track number 8 “Cave Mouth” (I have no idea what the songs are about lyrically) is just fantastic: great musical riffs, great breaks, infectiously catchy melody, and yet the whole thing feels just a hair off balance.  It’s sublime.  And the rest of the disc works in a similar way: things are a little off kilter, but that make you listen even harder to find out what’s going on.

The best example of this is the last song: “Let’s Get Strong.”  The song is a pretty, simple piano ballad.  It’s very catchy and quite pretty.  But a few measures into the song, you become convinced that the piano is out of tune.  And as you listen attentively, you can’t decide what’s going on that makes the song sound off.  And by the end, you’re hooked.

Clues is definitely a quirky band.  And yet they are not offputting.  They’re just following their own muses.  And we’re all the better for it.

[READ: September 28, 2009] “Temporary”

This story concerns two women living in Los Angeles. They met when they were both applying for a temp position.  Shelly, the more outgoing of the two invited Vivian to live with her in her new place. The rent is cheap.  The only problem is that it’s a room in a factory, and technically it’s illegal, so if the police ever come they will be evicted on the spot.

And so, the title really conveys the lives that these women lead.

While Shelly’s back story is not really divulged, we learn a bit about Vivian and her upbringing.  When she was young her mother became very ill. They assumed she wouldn’t make it, but, amazingly she pulled through. This incident of more or less self sufficiency led Vivian to lead a rather sensible life, growing up faster than she probably should have.   As such, she is constantly surprised by Shelly’s behavior and lifestyle.

When Vivian landed the temp job, Shelly gave up her job hunt.  And yet Shelly always seems to be able to make the rent with no trouble.  She also has a habit of giving Vivian anything that Vivian complemented her on (which makes Vivian uncomfortable).  Shelly also walks around the apartment in loose robes, and tends to leave her “boyfriends” lying around the same way she leaves her extra cash lying around.

It’s Vivian’s temp job that provides the emotional heart of the story.  She works at an adoption agency transcibing the interviews of prospective adoptees.  One couple in particular grabs her attention.  The man seems like a bully and the wife seem too deferential to be healthy.  Since she listens to their tapes over and over for transcription purposes, she gets the man’s voice ingrained into her head.  It is inevitible that she will encounter these voices in real life, but the where and how are too good to spoil.

The main plot ends before the story ends.  The ending is a coda that ties the whole story together.  It feels extraneous at first and yet upon reflection it works very nicely to wrap up the story.

This was the first story I’ve read by Marisa Silver, and I enjoyed it quite a bit.

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