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Archive for the ‘Books about writers’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: BTS-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #82 (September 21, 2020).

BTS is the biggest band in the world right now.  As the news the next morning said

Korean boy band BTS played its first Tiny Desk Concert on Monday — and broke the series record for most YouTube views on its first day, which happened in about 25 minutes.

When I was younger I hated all boy bands on principle–they were fake creations with no soul.  But either I’ve mellowed with age (true) or I’m less exposed to pop music so no longer sick of it (true) or maybe I just get a kick out of band from South Korea making people excited in the U.S.  Whatever the reason, BTS makes me smile.

Partly, it’s the band members themselves:

V; Jin; Jimin; J-Hope; RM; SUGA and Jungkook [I have no idea if that’s a left to right listing or just a random assortment of names] all seem to be really enjoying themselves and each other.  Perhaps all boy bands have this camaraderie (I’ve never watched enough to notice), but these guys are pretty entertaining–right down to their fabulous clothing choices.

The little I’ve seen of BTS makes me think that they are known by their hair color choices: the blue one, the purple one, the blond one, the brown one, but in this set, aside from a blue and a blonde, the rest of the guys have black or brown hair.  So instead, you have to go by their voices I guess.

One of them (on the right) has a really fantastic falsetto, another has a much deeper voice.  One of them seems to be a rapper.  The rest I can’t really tell apart–I’m not entirely sure if it makes sense for there to be seven of them, but it works.

With BTS cooped up in Seoul, the group held true to the series’ spirit by convening a live band for its Tiny Desk debut, and even arranged to perform in a workspace with a music-friendly backdrop: the record store VINYL & PLASTIC by Hyundai Card in BTS’s hometown.

The following introduction makes me laugh because I have literally never heard this song (or really any BTS song, as far as I know)

Opening with this summer’s inescapable “Dynamite” — the group’s first single to hit No. 1 in the U.S., as well as its first song to be fully recorded in English

“Dynamite” has a real disco vibe and is really catchy.  Moreso than the other two songs, I feel.  Perhaps because its in English, but I don’t think so.  The melody and delivery is really spot on.  And I love the whoohoos and heys. 

I really like their live band.  It’s kind of hard to pay attention to them when you have seven guys singing and dancing around in front.  I don’t know if they normally play with a live band, but the guitar from Shyun is really grooving.  He also plays a lot of unobtrusive but wild solos throughout the songs.  The bass from Kim Kiwook is really smooth and funky

They introduce the next song in English. 

From there, the group dipped into its back catalog, seizing on the opportunity to showcase its quieter side while (mostly) staying uncharacteristically seated. The breezily propulsive “Save ME,” from 2016,

starts with a squeaky keyboard sound from DOCSKIM followed by the falsetto guy on the end (who seems to sing more than anyone else–I wonder if he’s the favorite) but they can all do some impressive falsetto notes in the verses as well.  I get a kick out of how they have a really hard time staying seated–with one or more of them seeming to need get up and dance. 

This song has a rap verse (in Korean I guess) which is pretty interesting to hear.

They discuss the song in Korean (with subtitles) and then introduce the final song in English.

It’s the full-on power ballad, 2017’s reflective “Spring Day,”

which seemed especially true to BTS’s hopeful nature: Introduced with a few optimistic words from rapper and singer RM (“It’s been the roughest summer ever, but we know that spring will come”), the song reflects on a need to wait out hard times, even as the weight of present-day pain feels oppressive.

The song builds from a slow intro to a pretty big ending with some notably solid drumming from KHAN.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this tiny concert.

[READ: September 22, 2020] Birthday

Birthday is not a novel, it is an autobiographical essay.  It’s important that this distinction is made because many of Aira’s novels feel autobiographical.  But this one is meditative and a very personal–it was translated by Chris Andrews.

Aira turned 50 in 1999 (he dated this work July 18, 1999).  He imagined it as an opportunity to prepare for the future. But nothing really changed.  He went on as usual.

It was a short time later, when walking with his wife, Liliana, when he stated that the phases of the moon could not be produced by the earth’s shadow as he had learned.  But his wife said there was no way anyone thought that’s how the moon’s phases were created.  He felt so dumb for thinking this, that he spent the next several days going over in his head what else he didn’t know.  He spends most of the book mocking himself for his ignorance. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LOS BITCHOS-“The Link is About to Die/Turkish Delight” (2020)

linkdieThis is Los Bitchos’ most recent single.  The cover has the same style as their previous one which makes it seem like an album is in the works.  Although it has been nine months between releases.

“The Link is About to Die” really fleshes out the band’s sound.  It opens with some funky percussion–bongos and cowbells–before the groovy bassline introduces the guitar melody.  There’s discoey synths on this track too.  There’s even a surf-sounding echoing guitar slide straight out of the beach.  This song even features a percussion solo. It’s still clearly Los Bitchos, but the new elements are a fun treat.

“Turkish Delight” is slower with a more reggae feel in the bass.  The funky percussion is still there, perhaps even more pronounced. About two minutes in a new guitar sound in introduced which changes the feel of the song and makes it that much more interesting.I’m really looking forward to them putting out a whole album. 

[READ: July 14, 2020] “Big Skies, Empty Places”

This issue of the New Yorker has a series of essays called Influences.  Since I have read most of these authors and since I like to hear the story behind the story, I figured I’d read these pieces as well.

These later pieces are all about one page long.

Annie Proulx says that her biggest influence is the landscape of the hinterlands.  She writes about rough weather, rural people living in isolation and with the decisions of the powers in distant urban areas.

She does not do this for nostalgia, but rather she likes imagining histories. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LOS BITCHOS-“Pista (Great Start)/Frozen Margarita” (2019).

pistaThis was Los Bitchos’ second release of 2019.  This one had a decidedly different look on the cover.

This single has two songs.  The first, “Pista (Great Start)” opens with whooping–a party is in full swing.  Musically, this is a great mix of cumbia and reggae with a smattering of Taureg in the guitar sound.

The song feels like they are partying in the desert no doubt drinking the title of the next song.

Although “Frozen Margarita” comes in at a quieter pace.  There’s a grooving bassline and a slinky lead guitar line.  It’s a very pretty piece.

[READ: July 14, 2020] “Johnny Tremain”

This issue of the New Yorker has a series of essays called Influences.  Since I have read most of these authors and since I like to hear the story behind the story, I figured I’d read these pieces as well.

These later pieces are all about one page long.

This essay later appeared in Saunders’ book The Braindead Megaphone under the name “Thank You, Esther Forbes.”

Saunders talks about his school days in Catholic school when Sister Lynette was a nun that he fell in love with.  He imagined her leaving the church for him (he was in third grade, but whatever). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LOS BITCHOS-“Bugs Bunny” (2018).

bugsThis is another single from Los Bitchos.

Of all of their releases, this one is the least interesting to me.  But I like their songs a lot so it’s not like I dislike this one.

I rather like the way the song shifts speed midway through though–it certainly adds some fun to the song.  And the whole ending is a wild ride of excitement.

I’m not really sure what the music has to do with Bugs Bunny, though.

[READ: July 14, 2020] “Single-Handed”

This issue of the New Yorker has a series of essays called Influences.  Since I have read most of these authors and since I like to hear the story behind the story, I figured I’d read these pieces as well.

These later pieces are all about one page long.

I feel like Barnes gives the most honest answer to the question of who your Influences are.

He says that when British writers go to Spain they are asked if they are always asked if they influenced by Tom Sharpe–a writer of jocose farce: “student embarrassed by  acquiring large quantities of condoms, inflates them with gas, stuffs them up his chimney, someone lights the fire, the chimney explodes.” Sounds hilarious, can’t believe I’ve never heard of him.  The trick when asked this question is to keep a polite face while pretending to ponder this question. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LOS BITCHOS-“Trapdoor” (2018).

trapThe first time I played this song I thought it sounded vaguely familiar.  I don’t know that I ever would have guessed that it was a cover.  But upon reading that it is a King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard song, it absolutely makes sense.

They get the opening guitar sounds perfectly right and the lead guitar even sounds vaguely flute-like.

Of course, since the original is jam packed with words, it’s easy to not realize it’s the same song, but the melody is so great it works perfectly as an instrumental as well.

Los Bitchos keep the psychedelic feel of the song and just slow it down a bit (until the end) to make it even more dreamy.

Incidentally, I found out about Los Bitchos because their song came on right after King Gizzard’s new song on YouTube.  Good programming, there!

[READ: July 14, 2020] “My Madeleine”

This issue of the New Yorker has a series of essays called Influences.  Since I have read most of these authors and since I like to hear the story behind the story, I figured I’d read these pieces as well.

These later pieces are all about one page long.

Spark starts by saying that Marcel Proust is well-known for his Madeleine fetish.  He put the cookie to his lips and is memories flooded back.

Spark’s “Madeleine” is an empty notebook–as soon as she sees one she wants to fill it. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LOS BITCHOS-“Tripping Party/FFF” (2018).

fff

 Los Bitchos are a London-based quintet who play “tequila cumbia instrumentals.”

Although they reside in London the band has an international base, with members hailing from Perth, Montevideo, Stockholm and Croydon.  The band is made up of Serra Petale on lead guitar, Carolina Faruolo (guitar), Augustina Ruiz (keytar), Josefine Jonsson (bass), and Nic Crawshaw (drums/percussion).

The band has been around for two years but only have eight songs on bandcamp (spread over five releases).  This is their first single.  Both songs are terrific evocative instrumentals.

“Tripping Party” has a great Western swing sound, but with a rock foundation.  After about a minute the guitars take on a kind of ska vibe with a slinky lead guitar solo.  A lower guitar solo comes in after the first one–adding a new dimension to the sound.  By the end of the song, the swinging sound returns and ends with a great vibe.

“FFF” is a slower, some what more Middle Eastern sounding song.  There’s some great percussion throughout as the Middle Eastern soloing vibe runs throughout.

This is a great introduction to the band whose newer songs are even better.

[READ: July 14, 2020] “The Book of My Life”

This issue of the New Yorker has a series of essays called Influences.  Since I have read most of these authors and since I like to hear the story behind the story, I figured I’d read these pieces as well.

This essay is surprisingly dark.

Hemon grew up in Sarajevo and studied under Professor Nikola Koljevic.  The course was in Poetry and Criticism and Hemon learned the New Critical method.  When he graduated he phoned his professor to thank him.  This was unusual, but Koljevic was flattered and invited him for a walk to discuss literature.

Soon after, Hemon began working for an independent Sarajevo magazine and Koljevic gained a high position in the Serbian Democratic Party run by Radovan Karadzic, “a psychiatrist and talentless poet.”  He would soon become the most wanted war criminal in the world.

Whenever Karadzic gave a speech on TV, Koljevic was there beside him. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DARLINGSIDE-“Ocean Bed” (2020).

oceanToday, Darlingside announced the release of a new song–a wonderful surprise–and an upcoming new album.

The basic sound of Darlingside doesn’t change (thank goodness), but on their last album, they mixed things up by throwing in some electronic sounds.

There’s no electronic sounds on this song (which doesn’t mean there are non on the album) but there is a lot more percussion than usual.

It opens up with some thumping drums.  Is there a drummer?  It’s more than the kick drum they usually use.  Then comes the mandolin and some clapping.  A smooth grooving bass slides in and then, as the voices come in, everything settles down into pure Darlingside.

The verses are individual voice but the bridges are gorgeous harmonies.  The song moves swiftly with a percussion backing as the lead voices sing.

Then the surprise–the middle is practically a drum solo–with rumbling percussion and some kind of low pulsing note (is that secret electronics after all) that adds almost a sinister feel. But that segue leads right back to the mandolin.

I love that this song can sound so much like Darlingside and yet also shows them changing things up. In some ways it’s a step back since their first album had a drummer and their later ones did not.  But this drumming and percussion is a very different sound.  very exciting–how will they do it live?

[READ: July 10, 2020] “Black Mountain, 1977”

This issue of the New Yorker has a series of essays called Influences.  Since I have read most of these authors and since I like to hear the story behind the story, I figured I’d read these pieces as well.

Donald Antrim’s essay is considerably shorter and much more harrowing than the previous one.

Antrim tells of the horrible situation that his mother grew up in.  His mother’s mother was a cruel parent, carrying out “an aggressive campaign against her daughter’s body, even going so far as to advocate unnecessary surgeries for her only child,”

His mother’s father was a meek and cowed alcoholic who never stood up to his wife. (more…)

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june8SOUNDTRACK: KAWABATA MAKOTO [河端一]-Mizu Naranu Ao Ni Sae [水ならぬ青にさへ] (1998).

a1335809529_16Recently, Kawabata Makoto [河端一], mastermind behind Acid Mothers Temple, revealed a new bandcamp site for some newer solo recordings.

 This album is more along the lines of what you might expect from Kawabata Makoto: electric guitar solos from 1998.

Dazzling music for the temporal world, overflowing with a sense of pellucidity totally different from his work with Musica Transonic.

The album has two songs.

The first is “Mai Sagarisi Negai [舞い下がりし願ひ] (16:38). .   It is loops of guitar noises and feedback.  It’s not a lot of guitar “playing” but more like guitar experimenting.

“Amou No Shibuki [天生の水沫] (17:59) is different.  It features ringing, chiming guitars and sounds like he has something metallic resting on the strings to keep everything vibrating.  This one is more spacey.

[READ: June 13, 2020] “Pursuit as Happiness”

I haven’t read a ton of Ernest Hemingway.  Honestly, his stories of hunting and boxing and whatever other masculine things he was up to while somehow also being a sissy writer never appealed to me.

This is the story of the pursuit, capture and slaughter of marlins.  Now frankly, I think a marlin is about the coolest thing in the ocean.  And while it may be very manly to wrestle one in with just a fishing line, it sure seems like a waste of a beautiful fish.

So Ernest (for the narrator’s name is Ernest Hemingway) and the captain of the boat he was on fished off of Cuba for a month.  They caught twenty-five but that wasn’t enough, so they went back for more. (more…)

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june8SOUNDTRACK: KAWABATA MAKOTO [河端一]–Gesseki No Sho [月跡の焦] (1998).

a2609153540_16Recently, Kawabata Makoto [河端一], mastermind behind Acid Mothers Temple, revealed a new bandcamp site for some newer solo recordings.

This is Kawabata Makoto’s 1st Sarangi solo album.  The sarangi is  a bowed Indian instrument.

Esoteric acoustic works that conceal a sense of magic and chaos akin to that of Toho Sara.

1.Kimi Ga Chi O Mote 君が血を持て (21:06)  is a lengthy improv piece of high bowed notes– a lot of scratchy sounds or as my daughter put it, is that someone screaming?

2.Kusa Shinobu 草しのぶ (18:21) is more percussive, with him apparently banging on the sarangi to produce chords.  It’s a cool effect.  After about 3 minutes, he starts plucking the strings and then the bowing begins.  There’s moments of scratching and scraping as he explores all aspects of this instrument.

[READ: June 9, 2020] “Brooklyn”

This issue of the New Yorker has four one-page essays called “Close Encounters.”  Since I like all of the authors, I was looking forward to reading them all.

I have really enjoyed Moshfegh’s stories.  But there is very little that is less interesting than reading about somebody drinking a lot.

In 2006, evidently Moshfegh was a chronic alcoholic.  She went out with friends and drank.  She found their company lacking (as I am sure they felt about her as well) so she went out and drank some more. (more…)

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june8SOUNDTRACK: KAWABATA MAKOTO [河端一]–Lost Milky Way in The Metaphysical Space (2013).

a0544282959_16

Recently, Kawabata Makoto [河端一], mastermind behind Acid Mothers Temple, revealed a new bandcamp site for some newer solo recordings.

This album features his voice and his glissando guitar.  It has two songs.

“Old Letters From Andromeda” (21:04)  sounds like metallic outer space filled with slowly moving metallic whale sounds.  At 6 minutes a lovely acoustic guitar melody comes in and there’s gently crooned ahhhs as well.  Around 12 minutes a lead solo lays over the top.  It’s all quite lovely.

“Lost Milky Way” (18:36) features squeaking, squealing feedback behind a lovely acoustic guitar melody.  Pretty much the entire song is made up of this delicate acoustic guitar pattern. The backing soaring sounds change and modify throughout.  Sometimes, it is tinny.  Sometimes trippy.  Sometimes menacing.  –

This release is quite fetching.

[READ: June 9, 2020] “You Miss It When It’s Gone”

This issue of the New Yorker has four one page essays called “Close Encounters.”  Since I like all of the authors, I was looking forward to reading them all.

This essay is about the current Coronavirus crisis and how it has impacted socializing.  Not by thinking about the now but by remembering the then.

Washington mentions various ways that customers at gay bars get close to each other.  Often it is simply very crowded, with everyone being “a blob of gas and air.”  But there are also details. (more…)

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