Archive for the ‘Susan Straight’ Category

between heaven SOUNDTRACK: ALTAR OF PLAGUES-“Scald Scar of Water” (2013).

aopI never think of death metal coming from Ireland.  I think of punk and metal and obviously the Pogues, but noise metal?  Unlikely.   And yet here is some.  And why shouldn’t Ireland produce music like this?  There are fans everywhere.

I heard this from good old Lars at NPR.  I’ve come to expect the unexpected from Lars’ picks.  And this is no exception.  The song is six minutes long.  It has some traditional death metal stuff–growling vocals, incessant drumming and lots of noise.  But there’s a lot more going on here.  It opens with electronic noise and thudding drums.  The drums are punctuated by alternating abrasive guitar riffs.  The song meanders along until it settles down to some heavy heavy verses (I have no idea what the man is screaming about).  After returning to the buzzsaw riffs, and repeating the verse, the song suddenly stops.

At 4 minutes the whole thing stops.  There’s some scratchy noises and then some slow pulsing bass and suddenly the whole song turns into  kind of alternative metal song, complete with chanting.  It’s pretty unexpected.  I can’t imagine what the rest of the album is like.

[READ: April 17, 2013] Between Heaven and Here

This was another book that I did not like in the beginning. Well, that’s not exactly true, I enjoyed the beginning but I really didn’t like the middle and really wanted it to end soon.  Not a good way to feel about a book. The reason I didn’t stop is because it was so short.  It turns out that an excerpt from this book was in a McSweeney’s issue that I recently read (and which I haven’t posted yet).  I didn’t “get” the excerpt then, and while it makes more sense in context I still felt the section was really hard to follow.

And so was much of the book.

This is the story of Rio Seco, an area of California, and the citizens who live there.  As the story opens we learn that Glorette Picard is dead.  Glorette was a crack whore, the kind of girl who would get killed and no one would miss her.  Except that people would miss her.  She had a lot of friends and relatives who cared about her.  She even had a son, Victor, who is 17 and studying his ass off to be able to go to college.  When a boy in town finds Glorette’s body dumped in a shopping cart, he feels compelled to move her, to bring her to her Uncle Enrique because he knows that the police won’t care if some crack whore was killed.  So he moves the body and that sets in place the rest of the story.

What was confusing to me was that the novel was constructed like a series of short episodes–different people and how they knew Glorette and how Glorette affected them.  That’s not a problem, except that there’s very little indication that that’s what was happening.  It felt increasingly difficult to know who was the main character was in each section, especially since so many characters overlapped.  Which again wouldn’t have been a problem except that I really couldn’t tell which person was the narrator or at least focus of each section.  Sometimes they were never identified, other times only after several pages.  The chapter that was excerpted in McSweeney’s has virtually no names in it, it is just dialogue.  And sure the dialogue was interesting and with the novel’s context made some sense, but I’m still not sure who was in the conversation. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DEFTONES-Diamond Eyes (2010).

diamondBefore releasing Diamond Eyes, Deftones had two band crises. The first was that they didn’t really seem to like each other anymore.  The previous album was fraught with tension and they barely toured.  After deciding that they wanted to remain as a band, they were invigorated and made an album called Eros.  But during the recording, bassist Chi Cheng was in a car accident and was in a coma.  As of yet he has not fully recovered.  So they shelved Eros, hired a temporary bass player Sergio Vega and set about recording Diamond Eyes.  And for whatever reason, it proved to be one of their best releases so far.

“Diamond Eyes” opens with a heavy down-tuned guitar–very abrasive–until the chorus come in and it’s their most beautiful ones yet–with soaring keyboards and  harmonies.  And then the heavy guitars come back–it’s what Deftones do so well–beauty and ugly together.  Stephen Carpenter really shines, as always.  “Royal” is a fast song with a great harmonizing chorus.  “Cmnd/Ctrl” has a shocking low riff that explodes into a  bright chorus.  “You’ve Seen the Butcher” has guitars that seem almost untuned as the song starts.  But it morphs into a kind of sexy butt-shaking chorus.  And Abe Cunningham’s drums are, of course, fantastic.

“Beauty School” is the first that doesn’t really start out heavy, it’s a got a gentle guitar intro and the first song where Vega’s bass is really prominent as a separate instrument and it creates a beautiful alternative song–great vocals throughout.  “Prince” brings in a lot of new textures to the album, including a clanging guitar sound and a great screamed chorus. “Rocket Skates” is one of my favorite songs on the record, it has a classic metal riff and the great screamed-beyond-comprehension chorus of Guns, Razors Knives and a weird little whoooo that ends the chorus.

“Sextape” is a surprisingly gentle song, opening with an echoed guitar riff and one of Chino’s most gentle choruses.  “976-Evil” has an echoey guitar and voices not unlike the Cocteau Twins.  “This Place is Death” has another great alt rock feel–a big song with bright guitars and dark lyrics.  I haven’t really mentioned Frank Delgado on keyboards and samples.  He’s been with the band since White Pony, and I feel like his presence was made notable on a few songs here and there.  But it seems like on this disc he really comes to the fore, adding new textures and sounds to the album which really fill it out.

[READ: March 12, 2013] McSweeney’s #14

After the colorful extravaganza of the Comics Issue of McSweeney’s #13, this book settles down into something more somber  The book is softcover and all white.  The cover depicts a cartoon of George Bush with both legs blown off and the caption, “I Am So, So Sorry.”  On the spine in small print: “We’re praying as fast as we can.”  It is the most context-full cover they’ve done yet and, nearly a decade away it seems like a rather mean cover, but if I remember correctly at the time it seemed apt and delicious, especially in light of the upcoming election.

Yet despite the overtly political cover, the content inside is not political or even thematic (although it is pretty dark stuff).  Nevertheless, the table of contents gives us a small joke when it says “To help you know which stories to read first, we have indicated with either a * or a † those that deserve special consideration from you, the reader.  If you see either a * or a †, do not miss that story.”  Of course every story has either a * or a † but they cleverly did not put any kind of pattern to the symbols.

The colophon explains that when they were in Ireland, they met an actual Timothy McSweeney.  He had been given a copy of Issue #3 and then promptly forgot about the magazine.  But when McSweeney’s was in Galway to do a reading at the Galway Arts Festival, Timothy (Ted) McSweeney traveled from Dublin to check it out (not a short trip).  This also resulted in a letter from Mr McSweeney which is actually quite funny.

There are also illustrations in the book, although they are small illustrations and are placed on the title of each piece in the book.  All of the illustrations are old, mostly coming from the 1800s, although one dates back to 1670.  They illustrations are all technical scientific ones and don’t have anything to do with the stories. (more…)

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