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Archive for the ‘Death’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: PALBERTA-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #210 (May 18, 2021).

Palberta has a great name (even if they are not from Alberta).  They are an underground Philly band.  I saw them a few years ago, and this attitude of relaxed yet frenetic fun was evident then as well.

While many of us have gotten better at using technology to feel close to our friends and collaborators over the past year, there’s still no replacement for being in the same room as someone who you swear can read your mind. That’s what it feels like to watch punk band Palberta, whose music makes magic out of repeated phrases sung in tight harmony and charmingly zany pop hooks. For its Tiny Desk (home) concert, shot on a MiniDV and a Hi8, the band crams into Nina’s Philly basement for a set that’s a testament to the group’s tight-knit collaboration and playful exuberance.

The band plays six songs in fifteen minutes (including the time it takes to switch instruments).  Five songs are off of their new album Palberta5000.

The guitar-bass-drums trio is made up of Ani Ivry-Block, Nina Ryser and Lily Konigsberg, and each member sings and plays each instrument. Here, they trade places every couple of songs.  The songs aren’t over-complicated but still manage to surprise at every turn – a true Palberta specialty.

The “frenzied opener” “Eggs n’ Bac'” has a wild instrumental opening which jumps into a faster indie punk sound for most of the song.  All squeezed into less than 2 minutes.  For this song Nina is on bass, Lily on guitar and Ani on drums.  Their sound reminds me of early Dead Milkmen.  Is this a Philly thing?

For “No Way” Nina stays on bass, Lily switches to drums and Ani takes the guitar.  Nina sings lead with the other two giving great tight harmonies.  For these songs the bass lays down the main melody and the guitars play a lot of single note melodies that run counter to the bass.

For the “queasy-yet-sentimental” “The Cow” it’s the same lineup but Lily sings lead on the first verse and Ani sings leads on the second verse.  The staccato guitar style on this song is so unusual.

For the “anxious and melodic” “Big Bad Want” Lily stays on drums and sings lead, Ani switches to bass and Nina gets the guitar.  Ani plays some chords on the bass and you can really see how the guitar plays a repeated pattern while the bass takes more of a lead role.  The call and response for this chorus is really tight.  Nina even plays a guitar solo.

“Sound of the Beat” (from 2018’s Roach Goin’ Down) is “a sweet testament to grooving” and gets a full lineup switch.  Nina sits behind the kit, Ani is back on guitar and Lily is on bass.  This song is really catchy–surely the catchiest thing in this set.  It has a feeling like early Sleater-Kinney.  All three sing harmony lead.

They end with “Before I Got Here” with same line up.  It’s one of their longer songs at over three minutes.  Ani and Lily switch off lead vocals for the fast verses.  After a minute or so, the tempo shifts and the last two minutes are a slow instrumental jam with Ani playing a guitar solo while Lily keeps the melody on bass.

It’s tempting to try to see if one of them is “better” at one instrument or another, but they are all clearly very comfortable on each instrument.  This leads to endless possibilities for songs.

[READ: May 1, 2021] Weird Women

“Introduction” by Lisa Morton and Leslie S. Klinger

Why summarize when they say what this book is about so well

Any student of the literary history of the weird or horror story can hardly be faulted for expecting to find a genre bereft of female writers, at least in its first two centuries. …

Yet there were women writing early terror tales—in fact, there were a lot of them. During the second half of the nineteenth century, when printing technologies enabled the mass production of cheap newspapers and magazines that needed a steady supply of material, many of the writers supplying that work were women. The middle classes were demanding reading material, and the plethora of magazines, newspapers, and cheap books meant a robust marketplace for authors. Women had limited career opportunities, and writing was probably more appealing than some of the other avenues open to them. Though the publishing world was male-dominated, writing anonymously or using masculine-sounding names (such as “M.E. Braddon”) gave women a chance to break into the market. It was also still a time when writers were freer than today’s writers to write work in a variety of both styles and what we now call genres. A prolific writer might pen adventure stories, romantic tales, domestic stories, mystery or detective fiction, stories of the supernatural—there were really no limits.

Spiritualism—the belief that spirit communication could be conducted by a medium at a séance, and could be scientifically proven (despite continued evidence to the contrary)—was widely popular, and so one might expect to find that many writers of this period were producing ghost stories. But ghost stories were just one type of supernatural story produced by women writers at this time. Women were also writing stories of mummies, werewolves, mad scientists, ancient curses, and banshees. They were writing tales of cosmic horror half a century before Lovecraft ever put pen to paper, and crafting weird westerns, dark metaphorical fables, and those delicious, dread-inducing gems that are simply unclassifiable.

ELIZABETH GASKELL-“The Old Nurse’s Story” (1852)
Gaskell wrote primarily about social realism, but she also wrote this creepy story.  The set up of this story is fascinating. A nursemaid is telling a story to her new charges.  The story is about their mother–from when the nursemaid used to watch her.  The story seems like one of simple haunting–strange things are afoot at this mansion.  But there’s a lot more going on.  I love the way everyone is so calm about the broken pipe organ playing music day and night.  Way back then, the children’s mother saw a girl outside and went to play with her.  But it was winter and when they found the child, alone, under a tree, there was no evidence of anyone else being there with her.  That’s when we learn the history of this house and the way the owner treated his daughters.  The ending gets a little confusing, but when you unpack it, there’s some wonderful deviance at hand. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ChocoQuibTown-Tiny Desk Meets AFROPUNK: #204/196 (May 2, 2021).

Tiny Desk Meets AFROPUNK was the opening event of AFROPUNK’s “Black Spring” festival. The virtual celebration, hosted by Jorge “Gitoo” Wright, highlighted outstanding talent in Afro-Latin and Afro-Caribbean music across the globe. Our showcase featured four artists who honored their homes and celebrated the art their heritage has inspired.

 ChocQuibTown–named after the coastal area the trio hails from–is a family affair comprised of siblings Miguel “Slow” Martinez and Gloria “Goyo” Martinez, the latter of which is married to Carlos “Tostao” Valencia. In 2000, the trio formed to promote their neglected corner of Colombia’s culture; today, ChocQuibTown’s music blends the traditionality of Afro-Latin jazz with the modernity of hip-hop to create a singular, yet versatile sound.

They play what I assume is a medley of six songs in fifteen minutes.

“Somos Pacífico” has grooving bass from Braulio Fernández and little horn blasts from José González.

“De Donde Vengo Yo” shifts gears when Tostao starts singing lead the repeated “ah has” from Eignar Renteria and Yaima Saurez are very fun.  Goyo raps and then Slow raps.  Rapping in Spanish has a really nice flow.

“¡Tú sabes!” Carlos “Tostao” Valencia exclaims after Colombian hip-hop trio ChocQuibTown performs its second song, the energetic “De Donde Vengo Yo.” “ChocQuibTown, straight from Colombia, from the Pacific coast,” he says. “We call it Africa inside Colombia, we got the flavor, we got the flow.”

The rest of the songs are much quieter.  “Pa Olvidarte” has soft acoustic guitar from Alejandro García and keys from Daniel Rodríguez “Noize.”  They sing softly in nice harmony.

“Qué Lástima” is another slow ballad, this one sung by Slow, with gentle percussion from Carlos Palm.  “Lo Que Quieras Tú” segues smoothly into “Cuando Te Veo” which is a little bouncier and fun to start but it slows down for Goyo’s vocals.  As the send the song out, Tostao does some sound effects scratching and singing Tiny Desk and blapping.

[READ May 30, 2021] Red Sonja and Vampirella Meet Betty and Veronica

I don’t understand crossovers.  Well, I understand some, when they make sense.  It’s ones like this that I don’t understand.  Did someone just say, Wouldn’t it be cool if Red Sonja and Vampirella teamed up and went to Riverdale?  I guess so.  And sometimes the most ridiculous crossovers make the best stories.

Amy Chu wrote this story with Alexander Chang’s assistance on book 5.

Now, I don’t watch Riverdale, but I know the show.  So obviously this isn’t old school Betty and Veronica.  But neither, I don’t think, is it Riverdale-based either (or maybe it is).  I’ve also never read Red Sonja or Vampirella books.  So really this crossover event is not for me.

And yet, I did enjoy it.

The book opens with a teacher getting killed and then a shot of Red Sonja and Vampirella in the woods.  Now, I realize that these two characters were created by men, and that’s why they are dressed as they are.   Red Sonja could not be dressed more impractically for fighting as she is wearing a hooded cape and a chain mail bikini.  I mean, the absurdity of dressing like that for combat is monumental.  The cape alone would cause her no end of grief.  Vampirella is at least wearing clothes–a cleavage enhancing skin tight tank top and super low cut off jeans.  But hey, she’s a seductress, right?

I guess I was surprised that Amy and artist Maria Laura Sanapo would keep these costumes. But they do need to establish the characters traditionally first, right?  It was a nice surprise when a few pages later, Betty & Veronica (who aren’t at all disturbed by a woman in a chain mail bikini with a large sword) invite them over and dress them in regular clothes (still sexy) so they blend in. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JAERV-Vol 2 (2014).

Jaerv is a folk group from Sweden who I happened to see live at a Scandinavian Festival several years ago.  I’m impressed that ScanFest was able to get a band to come over from Sweden (unless they were doing a tour in the area anyway).

Their folk music is very traditional, meaning, to me it sounds like folk music from a lot of other countries as well (Ireland, for instance).  But there are some distinctions.  In particular the use of the nyckelharpa, an instrument that I’d never heard of but which is very cool.

The band consists of five musicians Joel Hagen: flute (flöjt), whistles, soprano saxophone (sopransaxofon) and ewi an electronic musical instrument); Anders Bergsten: double bass (kontrabass) and nyckelharpa; Harald Nilsson: guitars (gitarrer); Markus Gustavsson: fiddle (fiol) and lead vocals (sång); Tobias Hedlund: drums (trummer), percussion (slagverk), pedal organ (tramporgel), vibraphone (vibrafon).  They all sing harmony vocals (kör).

There’s eleven songs on the album, most of them around five minutes long.  It’s hard to distinguish them (which isn’t a criticism, it’s just the nature of the music).

“Vårfloden” (5:01) is an instrumental with lots of violin and flute.  “Två Rörospolser” (4:13) is very traditional sounding with lots of flute and whistle.  “Dansen Ungdom” (5:30) has lyrics.  Gustavsson sings in a deeper voice.  The song has a nice, lengthy flute instrumental jam at the end with an excellent four (or five) part harmony that sounds amazing.

“Av Himlens Höjd” (4:13) has nice vocals and harmonies,  The song is quite grooving and there’s some amazing a capella vocals at the end–the bass voice is particularly noteworthy.  “Johannas Brudmarsch” (4:46) is a slow fiddle tune.

“S:T Örjan & Draken” pushes the length to 8:04.  There’s a slow opening with bells chiming.  There’s complex, quiet singing and guitar.  The tempo picks up but retreats until half way through when it changes into a stomping, intense song with a wild flute solo.

“E4:An” (3:46) seems like it will be kind of heavy with the opening chords, but they just work as a low bass for the lovely fiddling and then some lovely whistle.  I like the time change mis song.  “Rosa-Lill” is another short one at 2:56.  It’s a bouncy folk song with flute melodies and nyckelharpa throughout.  “Rocken Snurrar” (3:21) starts a capella with the harmonies creating the music while the lead vocal sings.  Then they harmonize in the chorus.  This one is super catchy with great vocal harmonizing and surprising glockenspiel solo.

“Slängpolska” (4:56) is an instrumental jam with lots of fiddle and flute.  I like the percussion throughout.  “Tre Engelskor” (5:02) ends the album very traditionally with some ripping violins.

I met the guys after the show and they were all very nice.  They signed my CD which is always a nice thing to do.

You can hear the whole album here.

[READ: May 29, 2021] Gung-Ho

This is one of a few books by Ablaze Publishing that I read recently.

I really enjoyed Thomas von Kummant’s art style.  The pages looked very painterly, with cool washes of colors and juxtapositions of colors rather than shading.  The characters were also almost entirely distinctive *there are a lot of characters).  There were one or two who looked a little to alike, but for the most part this heavily populated story was very easy to follow who was who.

Set somewhere in Europe (I wondered if this was written in German–I don’t see a translator, but he does live in Munich [UPDATE: according to a catalog record, the book was translated from the French by Ivanka Hahnenberger]), we come upon an outpost.  It is heavily guarded.  The people are heavily armed and they all kook pretty dirty.

Cut to a train hauling cargo and two teenage boys, Archie and Zack on top wearing prison orange.  They were kicked out of their orphanage and sent here.  If they can’t make it here, they are on their own.

The town has a strict hierarchy and strict rules for safety. All provisions are divvied out based on need and on who kills the most (we don’t know what they’re hunting, yet).  We also see that the guy who divvies out the provisions isn’t above getting himself some teenage girl action for extra supplies (ew).

Indeed, many people in town have a problem with him, but he was sent by the military and is above questioning.

There are 400 people living here including many teenagers.  The boys almost all follow this one leader who is a jerk.  There are a few who don’t follow him and one in particular befriends Zack.  There’s also a bunch of girls who seem to hang out together and maybe or maybe not fool around with the bad boys. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ACID MOTHERS TEMPLE & THE MELTING PARAISO U.F.O.-The Ripper at the Heaven’s Gates of Dark (2011).

I’m not sure why this era of AMT seems so readily available on CD, but this is another collection of songs from the lineup of Tsuyama Atsushi – monster bass, voice, soprano sax, cimpo flute, soprano recorder, acoustic guitar, cosmic joker Higashi Hiroshi – synthesizer, dancin’king Shimura Koji – drums, latino cool Kawabata Makoto – electric guitar, electric bouzouki, sitar, organ, percussion, electronics, speed guru.

It has 5 songs and comes in at just around 75 minutes.

The album titles tend to be amusing twists on classic rock albums (The Piper at the Gates of Dawn), but usually the music doesn’t sound all that classic rock.  But on this album, they changed that.

“Chinese Flying Saucer” is 12 minutes long and opens with a kind of siren sound going high then low and then a big old guitar riff launches.   It feels like a classic rock riff, but it is original.  When Tsuyama starts singing, the whole thing comes together like a Led Zeppelin tribute.  The riff is classic Zep the vocals (indecipherable as they are) are tally Robert Plant–echoed and high pitched with lots of moaning. There’s even a “Kashmir”-like riff in the middle.  It’s remarkably fun and really accessible.  The big non-Zeppelin moment comes with Kawabata’s solo which is just insanity.

After about four minutes the song shifts gears and takes off for outer space with rumbling bass and soaring keys.  They jam for about five minutes and then return to the initial riff to end the song.

“Chakra 24” is only four minutes long and is a slower sitar based song with raspy vocals.  It’s quite pretty.

But the brevity is soon gone with the fifteen minute “Back Door Man Of Ghost Rails Inn.”  It’s a slow droney song with sitar and lots of keys.  This time when Tsuyama starts singing it’s in a very Jim Morrison style–ponderous and over the top.  There’s even a spoken word part.  Imagine in Morrison’s voice “some people coming here… some people coming here and…” There’s some wild organ trippiness in this song that stretched in ways The Doors never did.

The cleverly titled “Shine on You Crazy Dynamite” is almost 22 minutes long and sounds like old school pink Floyd.  Not “Crazy Diamond” era, but earlier, more like “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun.”  Kawabata’s solos really shine on this one, with squeaky echoes and a metal bars slide up the neck.  The keyboards also sound like Richard Wright.   After 17 minute or so off wild guitar freak out, the guitar fades back a bit to let the pulsing bass take over with the echoing voices continuing to the end.

“Electric Death Mantra” is a twenty minute chill out.  It’s a slower piece with lots of high pitched spacey notes floating around, which Kawabata plays bouzouki and Tsuyama sigs (in his normal style).  With about eight minutes left things get really quiet with a quiet rumbling drums and echoed sounds and notes from the guitar while overdubbed vocals chant and chant.  Then it slowly starts to build up again, with faster and faster bouzouki and Kawabata’s wailing solo.

[READ: May 25, 2021] Rogue Planet

Oni Press was one of my favorite young imprints when I first started reading graphic novels.  Then I lost track of it.  So I was pleased to see this book from them.

I was a little turned off by it because it happened to be one of several books I brought home that just seemed to revel in blood and guts (was there a run on red ink recently?)

The book turned out to be (totally gross) interesting.  And I was pleased with the way it handled a somewhat complicated story in one volume.

The book opens on the rogue planet.  Life on the planet consists of a bunch of ET- looking creatures.  The older one speaks to its son, complimenting him on his intelligence before sacrificing him to the giant crystal that is growing out of the ground.  The giant crystal, which is covered in and surrounded by flesh and eyes and teeth and all kinds of gross stuff.  It’s really horrible-looking. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JENDRIK-“I Don’t Feel Hate” (Germany, Eurovision Entry 2021).

I couldn’t really leave Eurovision without mention the German entry which raised lots of eyebrows with its dancing foam middle  finer.

The melody is very catchy–reminds me a lot of Wham or a George Michael song except he’s playing it on the ukulele.  After a quick clapped beat, the bass kicks in.

The song is pretty over the top in terms of everything, but his heart is so on his sleeve that I 100% support his message of tolerance.

So you can wiggle with that middle finger, it’ll never wiggle back to you

And then came the big surprise.  He sings “I don’t feel”  and the song explodes with orchestral hits.  It turns into a big dance party and then ends as quickly as it started.

There’s a middle section that begins

I really don’t mind (ah, ah-ah) to be your rival (ah-ah, ah-ah)
‘Cause for your kind it’s essential for survival (say what? He did not just say that)
Yes, I did (yes, I did), and I feel sorry (so sorry)
I don’t feel hate, that’s the whole point of this song (that’s the song)

and then segues into a twenties-era melody with muted trumpets and very fast vocals:

I guess you need patronization as some kind of validation
You won’t cope with the frustration that your random me-fixation
Is another affirmation that you’re just a hateful person
Who’s not really better than me

Then comes a muted trumpet solo which toes in perfectly to the following, yes, tap dance break.

Jandrik really couldn’t have put anything more into this song.  It is so over the top, so very much too much, and I really like it. The foam middle finger is crazy cheesy though, which fits pretty well.

The actual video though is quite well produced–his extras are really excellent.

[READ: May 21, 2021] “How I Spent the War”

Do you want to know what went through the mind of a Nazi as World War II was ending?

Well, this essay by author Günter Grass–whom I have never read although I have often intended to–tells you.

When he was fifteen, living in Danzig, he volunteered for active duty.  This was not youthful folly.  He wanted to support his country and his Führer–he offers no excuses.

He had been serving in the Luftwaffe auxiliary–a group of boys too young to be conscripted.  It was compulsory but many viewed it as a respite from school routine.

They felt like they were guarding the front line–the last line of defense before Germany was destroyed.  They were allowed to go home every two weeks but Grass’ home wasn’t great.  He hated his father–probably because his father was a peace loving man.

So he would watch the newsreels and revel in videos of Germany’s subs returning victorious.

He volunteered to serve on a submarine, was rejected–they had too many volunteers and he was too young.  He was later called up for Labor Service like everyone his age–three months active duty—giving up the chic Luftwaffe uniform for Labor Service’s shit brown. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RINA SAWAYAMA-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert (April 19, 2021).

Rina Sawayama had one of the most compelling album covers of last year (see below).  I expected her music to be out of this world.  The little I heard was a little disappointingly poppy.  But this Tiny Desk Home Concert perks things up a bit

Rina Sawayama is back in the office, clad in a periwinkle blazer with waist cut-outs and a high ponytail cleaner than the view of the city skyline. Make no mistake: even in fluorescent lighting, the Japanese British pop star performs with the same tenacity and drama you hear in her 2020 debut album, SAWAYAMA, a lustrous pop epic peppered with early aughts R&B, nu-metal and classic rock.

She starts with “Dynasty” which has some deep keyboard bass from Geordan Reid-Campbell and strings from the string quartet (Braimah Kanneh-Mason: violin; Ayla Sahin: violin; Didier Osindero: viola; Jonah Spindel: cello).  Then Vic Jamieson adds a quiet sense of distortion with the electric guitar.

Tears calcify in “Dynasty,” a song like a salve to wounds inherited from generations past. The heaviness of the music never overshadows her voice, which ascends heroically. “Won’t you break the chain with me?” she belts out.

Heavy drums from Simone Odaranile shifts the song to a more rocking orchestral sound.  Backing vocalists Phebe Edwards and Desrinea Ramus add some lovely additions.  Jamieson solos and then the song gets big and intense with some impressively powerful vocals.

She says she’s been dying to play this.  She was meant to go on tour last year–this is the first time we’ve played “Dynasty” live.

As if turning the other cheek, Sawayama swiftly moves into the sweet, cha-ching pop of “XS.”

I would never describe this song as sweet or cha-ching.  “XS”  opens with deceptively quiet strings and Jamieson on the acoustic guitar.  She speaks quietly and the song jumps to the main heavy descending powerful riff.  The chorus is stop and start and full of hooks.  It’s a pretty great song.

She ends the set with “Chosen Family.”  She says that the song is dedicated to people who are not accepted by their parents for who they are: their sexual orientation or gender identity or anything else–and this is a pure and honest love song to my friend (my chosen family) who have gone through this.  Then amazingly she says she got a call from Elton John who said he wanted to work on the song with her!

the soft-hearted ballad “Chosen Family,” rendered in the style of her 2021 collaboration with Elton John. The song was reborn, in part, because of John’s admiration for Sawayama and her ability to cross-pollinate genres, but also because the two held “Chosen Family,” both the song and concept, dearly.

It’s a beautiful straightforward ballad.  And if you’re at all human, it will easily tug at your heart strings.

[READ: May 9, 2021] “Future Selves”

This story opens with a young married couple looking for an apartment to buy.  They had been renting but were looking to upgrade–get a real kitchen, a bathroom without chipped tiles.

They looked at smaller, impeccably restored places, but they seemed too small; they looked at a loft ion factory building–it was spacious and allowed for lots of privacy for each of them but there was no community around it–no café for them to sit in and talk .

It was a tough decision.

Around the same time, she had gone to visit her cousin at college.  Tara was fully enjoying herself and had lots of friends–boys and girls (one of whom she had a crush on). There was also Simon, a kind of hanger-on. He was soft spoken and friendly, but a step behind everyone else.

When she returned home, Tara had posted some pictures of them together.  Tara said that when they finally settled on a place, she’d love to stay with them. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CARM-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #192 (April 15, 2021).

CJ Camerieri is a co-founder of yMusic, which is how I know him (I saw him perform with Ben Folds).

This is his new project, CARM.  Camerieri is also a member of Paul Simon’s band, a collaborator with Bon Iver and a Tiny Desk alum. (You can hear his French horn with The Tallest Man On Earth from their 2019 Tiny Desk Concert.)

“Soft Night” is the first track and introduces us to what CARM is about.  He plays trumpet while Trever Hagen plays electronics and sets up the melody and drums.  Then Camerieri switches to French horn while Hagen plays some trumpet.  Then in a fun moment, Camerieri picks up the trumpet with his right whole still holding the French horn in his left.  He plays the trumpet melody and then puts down the trumpet and starts on the French horn.  For the rest of this five-minute instrumental, the two jump back and forth playing trumpet riffs and leads as the electronics build satisfyingly.

For CJ Camerieri … home is where the art is. He performed his concert at the Pablo Center in Eau Claire, Wisc., where [he] conceived and recorded all the songs for his 2021 debut solo album, CARM. “This particular community has been a really big part of my musical life for 10 years,” CJ says after playing the calming tune “Soft Night,” “so it seems like the perfect place to be doing this.”

He made “Song of Trouble” with Sufjan Stevens.  They wrote it before the pandemic but the lyrics have taken on new meaning.  S. Carey plays piano and sings.  This is another mellow song with some lovely muted trumpet and simple electronics backing the song.

“Nowhere” is a little stranger.  It opens with jittery trumpet and skittery and loud electronics.  The juxtaposition of the organic horns and the electronic instruments is very cool.

“Slantwise” opens with some rapid and wild drum loops.  Then Camerieri loops the French horn and trumpet giving the song a rather majestic feel.

[READ: May 11, 2021] A Complicated Love Story Set in Space

The librarian in West Windsor recommended this book to my son.  He didn’t read it, but I loved the title and was really interested in reading it.

And wow, did I enjoy it.

I have not read anything by Hutchinson before, so I’m not sure how this compares to his other books, but this was, indeed, a very complicated love story.  In the acknowledgments Hutchinson says that originally the story was called Gays in Space.  And while that is a fun title, I think the final title is wonderfully compelling.

The story opens on Noa.  Noa is a normal teenager from Seattle.  But he has just woken up and he finds himself in a spacesuit, floating outside of a spaceship.  He has no recollection of how he got there.  There’s a note that says “You are in space floating outside a ship called Qriosity.  There is no reason to panic.”

Well, thank goodness for that.

After getting his bearings, a voice speaks to him.  The voice is from a teenaged boy named DJ.  DJ is from Florida and he is aboard the Qriosity.  He also has no idea how he got there.

They are each tasked with a pressing problem and if they don’t fix them immediately, the ship will explode.  Noa panics (as he tends to do) but DJ calms him and talks to him as they work together to fix the ship.  Which they do.  But as Noa is heading to the airlock, his tether is not attached and he is flung from the ship.  He has nowhere near enough oxygen and soon enough, he is dead.

That’s a rough start for the protagonist of the story. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LUEDJI LUNA-Tiny Desk Meets AFROPUNK: #203/196 (May 2, 2021).

Tiny Desk Meets AFROPUNK was the opening event of AFROPUNK’s “Black Spring” festival. The virtual celebration, hosted by Jorge “Gitoo” Wright, highlighted outstanding talent in Afro-Latin and Afro-Caribbean music across the globe. Our showcase featured four artists who honored their homes and celebrated the art their heritage has inspired.

I don’t really understand why this is called AFROPUNK, as there is nothing even remotely punk about any of the music here.  I thought maybe it was a typo, but this music isn’t even terribly funky.  This music is very smooth jazzy

It is quite good though and Luna’s voice is understated and pretty as she sings in Portuguese.

Luna performs from her coastal hometown of Bahia in the city of Salvador, Brazil, where African culture flows in abundance. She is a powerhouse, entrancing and elegant, soulful and spiritual, as she uses her platform to discuss individual and systemic forms of anti-Blackness.

“Lençois” opens with some gentle piano from Gabriel Gaiardo and washes of cymbals (struck with mallets by Sergio Machado).  Then Luna starts singing in a kind of raspy, seductive whisper.  After a verse, Weslei Rodrigo (and his spectacular beard) lay down a smooth, anchoring bass line.

After the first song, she introduces the band.  After she introduces guitarist Vinicius Sampaio, he plays a solo and sings along with himself in a particularly jazzy way.

Elements of jazz and blues are infused with African rhythms as Luna uses music to express her ongoing struggles for autonomy as a Black woman.

She says,

“I feel that we are living in a crazy moment in a crazy time and music has been a safe place for me — the only safe place for me,” Luedji Luna says in a low, alluring voice as she explains the purpose of her latest album, Bom Mesmo É Estar Debaixo D’Água.

“Erro” opens with a slightly more rocking sound and a guitar solo intro.  I appreciate how different these songs sound from each other while still maintaining her overall vibe.  “Chororô” is a little funky, at least from Rodrigo’s bass.  But jazz is the overall vibe.

I really like the way the song’s chorus plays a five note and pause refrain to give a dramatic opening for the piano and guitar solo.  It’s also fun watching Luna dance.

[READ: May 3, 2021] Parable of the Talents [end]

I wound up reading this book very quickly.  I finished it before the deadlines of the first week’s read.  I was totally sucked in.  I hated parts of it–the woes of 2033 were unbearable–but I couldn’t stop reading it.

And wow, did Butler mess around with my head.

Contradict the first page of the story late in the book, but have it be a totally justifiable reason!  Check.

Not reveal why one of the character has a book published until almost the very end and have it be a real surprise!  Check.

Make me completely reassess the tone of the book and why Butler was writing it?  Check.

This break was a pretty fortuitous one because this week’s reading starts with a lengthy introduction from Asha Vere.  She began making up her own Dreamasks when she was 12.  When she was discovered he was punished. But that didn’t stop her from writing fictions to escape her own life.

When she was 15, an enemy in her school told her that her mother was a heathen and a whore–Asha punched the girl and broke her jaw.  She was spared detention by her stepfather who mostly just liked to molest her.

Once the diaries resume, we see what Olamina’s dealing with.  She is desperately seeking her daughter and is still trying to build up Earthseed.  Allie has actually been settling down with Justin.  She’s making furniture and instructing younger kids how to make it as well. But Olamina can’t stay in Georgetown.  She has decided to head up north.  Inexplicably she is going to go to Portland to find her brother–the brother who disagrees with everything she stands for and who ran away from her.

Allie has arranged a traveling companion for her–against her wishes.  Her name was Belen Ross but she went by Len.  She was born to a rich family; however, she was born from a surrogate and once the family had a natural birth, they gave the cold shoulder.  At 18 ,she was kidnapped and held for ransom.  But her family never paid it.  Eventually her captors just abandoned her.  When she returned home she found that her parents has moved to Alaska.  She had no other option but to go to Alaska.

So here were two people going in search of those who don’t want them. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KING GIZZARD AND THE LIZARD WIZARD-Live in San Francisco ’16 (2020).

This is a fun show from The Independent in San Francisco on May 25, 2016.  It’s on the Nonagon Infinity tour, which means a lot of stuff from that album appears here.

The one irritant is the woman who is a little too close to the soundboard.  You can hear her throughout the set, and she’s not exactly an intellectual giant.  She shouts, “Why do you have two drummers?” as the show starts.  This would be no big deal if it was all you could hear from her.

They album is a series of songs that segue into each other.  What I like here is that the first five songs do segue into each other but, while they start with the opening song “Robot Stop,” it segues into 2014’s slower “Hot Water” (from I’m in Your Mind Fuzz).  It’s very cool the way their songs keep a similar beat throughout.

They jump right back to Nonagon’s second song “Big Fig Wasp.”  From there they continue with Nonagon for two more songs, “Gamma Knife” and “People Vultures.”  It’s impressive how tight they are–they can stop and shift gears so seamlessly that they jump between songs as if it were one long song.

After the introductory five songs, they pause a bit.  There’s some banter with the audience, but the microphones are distorted and hard to make out.  They shift gears somewhat to the mellow Paper Mâché Dream Balloon album.  “Trapdoor” is one of he heavier songs on the album, made somewhat heavier here despite the preponderance of flute on it.

Then its back to the I’m in Your Mind Fuzz album.  The first four songs segue into each other on the album and they do so here as well.  “I’m in Your Mind” shifts into “I’m Not In Your Mind” which features a fun bass-only rumble for about a minute near the end. Stu says, “Hey, smile, you’re on camera,” then they jump right into the catchy “Cellophane” and end with “I’m in Your Mind Fuzz.”

The CD is broken into two short discs (KGATLW have a million albums but but their shows are never terribly long).  Disc Two opens with the mellow ten minute “The River” from Quarters.

You can hear the drunk woman shout “yeah, fuck yeah” and then start talking to her friend during the mellow part.  Even a curmudgeon like me admits that you can talk between songs, but not during the quiet parts of songs.  Come on!

After the mellow song it’s a quick jump back to Nonagon with a ripping “Evil death Roll.”  They jam this song out for over five minutes and then begin a mega 22 minute “Head On/Pill” with heavy and quiet parts as well as some classic KGATLW ending moments.

KGATLW put out a lot of records (5 in 2017), so each show tour tends to be very different.  This is a nice snapshot from later 2016.

[READ: April 25, 2021] “The Crooked House”

Mull is in a house that is crooked and keeps changing.

When it starts, he has just met the man who claimed to have exited the house by falling into a desert.

Mull had been to many places in the house.  He was searching for a woman.

The cafeteria seemed to always have coffee.  But passageways were getting blocked and opening in other locations.  He could no longer access the cafeteria, but now he could get to the atrium where people often brought hot foods.

It was in the atrium that he met the man who claimed to have left.  He said he went to Joshua Tree and got back by hitchhiking–it’s not that far. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKDUCKWRTH-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert Meets SXSW: #189 (April 5, 2021).

Every year, NPR Music participates in the SXSW music festival, whether it’s curating a stage or simply attending hundreds of shows at the annual event in Austin, Texas. Last year, the festival was canceled due to the pandemic, but it returned this March as an online festival. We programmed a ‘stage’ of Tiny Desk (home) concerts and presented them on the final day of the festival. Now, we present to you Tiny Desk Meets SXSW: four videos filmed in various locations, all of them full of surprises.

DUCKWRTH decided to do something special for Tiny Desk Meets SXSW: brand new music. The dynamic R&B singer proceeded to debut two exclusives: a slow jam titled “make u go,” which he dedicates to the “lovers and freaks,” and the upbeat “Birthday Suit,” which KCRW astutely compared to Estelle’s “American Boy.”

The new material wasn’t the only thing that made this Tiny Desk such a treat. For this funky and flamboyant performance, DUCKWRTH dressed his backing band entirely in white and switched up the lighting for each song so that the hue matched the mood he was laying down.

“Kiss U Right Now” [red lights] opens with a muted guitar line from Justin “Jhawk” Hawkins.  After a  soft “Okay” from DUCKWRTH, a kind of sci-fi warbly keyboard comes in from Devin Smith.  And then with a slide on the bass from Solomon “Solo” Smith the song bounces to a start.  DUCKWRTH has a soft croon that he intermixes with rapping verses.   It’s quite inviting and not given to histrionics.

Before “make u go”  [purple lights] he says “Welcome to my Tiny Desk,” he says. “We are gonna play some new songs for y’all if that’s OK. Y’all ain’t got no choice!”  This is mostly gentle keys and then backing vocalists Olivia Walker and Amber Olivia Kiner start by singing the chorus.

He says “Birthday Suit” [white lights] is morning music.  With this amusing line “Meet me in my birthday suit / This ain’t Gucci, it’s way more cute.”  Amber Olivia Kiner sings the lead lines.  The song ends with this refrain:

we look better naked / better in the nude / bend it over baby while in public / we may end up on the news.

“Super Good” [blue lights] is a slow jam with an interesting drum pattern from Darryl Staves Jr.  I really enjoy the simple but synchronized dance steps at the end of the song.

[READ: April 19, 2021] Parable of the Talents [2035]

When this book started I thought that it was an interesting idea to have Lauren’s child go wholly against her.  I even wondered if it was Butler’s rethinking about Earthseed.   Larkin’s attitude about her mother doesn’t exactly change over these chapters, but it does morph a bit.  So much so that by the time chapter seventeen rolls around, Larkin comes across as a bit more of a petulant, jealous person than a critical thinker.

I wonder what my life would have been life if my mother had found me.  I don’t doubt that she would have stolen me from the Alexanders–or died trying.  But then what?  How long would it have been before she put me aside for Earthseed, her other kid?  I was her weakness.  Earthseed was her strength.  No wonder it was her favorite. (265)

2033 was a terrible time and, frankly, a painful read.  The chapter of 2035 tells us that all of Olamina’s diaries from 2034 are lost.  Which is just as well for me since 2034 was a year of the same torture and hellishness and I’m just as happy to not have to read it.

Larkin writes that she met some people who were at Camp Christian (we don’t know how yet) and spoke to a woman named Cody Smith who told her about the attempted uprising by Day Turner and his people–an uprising that failed and that caused a massive increase in suffering for everyone there.

Larkin tells us that everything that was done at Camp Christian was illegal–despite what Jarret tried to make legal. The one thing that seems to have been made legal was the removal of children from their families at the Mexican border because of vagrancy laws. (more…)

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