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Archive for the ‘Drugs’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: CHLOE X HALLE-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #123 (December 8, 2020).

Chloe x Halle’s album, with its arresting album cover, has been on all the top album lists this year.  I hadn’t heard anything off of it, so this is my introduction to this “powerful sister duo.”

Flanked by personal memorabilia supplied by their mother, the Bailey sisters did their best to make this studio performance really feel like a home concert.

I don’t know what he album sounds like, but this recording (complete with a full band, horns and strings) sounds pretty amazing.  Almost as amazing as Chloe and Halle’s voices.

As they volley off each other, swapping lead and harmonies, it’s amazing to watch how years of practice and innate genetic chemistry have them synced tight.

After introducing themselves, the sister play “Don’t Make It Harder on Me.”  There’s a clean bass opening from Elin Sandberg and quiet guitar chords (it’s fun to watch Lexii Lynn Frazier play as she is smiling a lot and really into it).  The addition of the trumpets (Arnetta Johnson and Crystal Torres) adding soft and then loud accents is a really nice touch.  But nothing can distract from the voices.

Halle takes the higher notes and wow does her voice soar.  But the two of them together, whether singer counterpoint or their gorgeous wordless harmonies are really amazing.

“Baby Girl,” the second song here, starts with notes reminiscent of Crystal Waters’ “Gypsy Woman (She’s Homeless),” and is preceded with Chloe sharing “I know this year 2020 has been absolutely bonkers for all of us. For those moments where you kinda feel less than and you’re not good enough … that’s why we wrote this song. … Whatever happens, we’ll be OK. And this is our world.”

The song is softer with keyboard splashes from Elise Solberg and soaring strings from Stephanie Yu (violin), Chelsea Stevens (cello) and Marta Honer (viola).

Halle sings the first verse with Chloe adding punctuation on this cool refrain

step up to the patio
listen to the radio
try to play it on my Casio

more great punctuation from the horns nicely flesh out this song.  The song ends with a short drum breakdown from Brandi Singleton with some ripping bass work as it segues into “Do It.”  “Do It” is a great moment to see the sisters play of of each other.  It’s fun watching them smile at each other as they bounce and bop and back and forth with the “do it”s and the “woo”s.

“Ungodly Hour” is upbeat but “Wonder What She Thinks of Me” is a very different song.  Chloe says it’s a song telling the perspective of the other woman and what does that feel like?  What would we do in that situation.  Chloe sings the first verses accompanied by gorgeous strings.  It’s a beautiful torch song and their voices are simply fantastic.  Their harmonies in the third chorus are, frankly, jaw dropping.

I don’t tend to like R&B albums, (and it’s possible the album doesn’t sound like this), but this set was really impressive.

[READ: January 3, 2021] “Preparing to Spin the Wheel of Fortune”

I like when an author I enjoy has a Personal History in the New Yorker.

This one was especially fun because David Gilbert relates his experience appearing on Wheel of Fortune.

The studio is cold.  There are contestant handlers who are mystically upbeat.  They tell them to clap without clapping (so they dont mess up the sound recording).

He rather enjoyed the make up because she makes him look very good (he’s very critical of himself).  Before talking about the whole process though, he gives some background on the show. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: GRUFF RHYS-Yr Atal Genhedlaeth (2004).

In 2004. Super Furry Animals frontman Gruff Rhys released his first solo album. The sung-entirely-in-Welsh Yr Atal Genhedlaeth.  It’s a lo-fi bedroom kind of recording.  Mostly catchy as anything, but with some typically weirdo songs as well.   Most of the songs are well under three minutes.

I’ve included some notes from Wikipedia (in italics) that offer translation advice.

The album opens with “Yr Atal Genhedlaeth” which is 8 seconds of warping looping nonsense.  In Welsh the title means ‘The Stuttering Generation,’ but ‘atalgenhedlu’ is also Welsh for a contraceptive.

“Gwn Mi Wn” is a proper song with Gruff singing over a drum pattern.  As the song moves along more looped vocals are added making the song bigger and bigger–almost trance like by the end.  Gwn Mi Wn translates as ‘I Know [that] I Know’, but could also mean ‘a gun I know’, a reference to the battle in the song.

“Epynt” is a 2 minute rocking raw song of guitar and synth and some shouted lyrics.  It’s oddly catchy.  The song is named after a mountain in Mid Wales, but is about money, with the ‘E’ standing for the Euro, and ‘pynt’ sounding similar to the Welsh word for Pound.

“Rhagluniaeth Ysgafn” is a slower, more electronic-sounding song (from the drums and sound effects).  Although guitars do move the song along.  There’s a kind of scream/laugh effect that’s played here and it gets repeated on other songs.  It translated as ‘Light programming’, but ‘lluniaeth ysgafn’ means a light snack.  This is also a catchy song that is a total sing along, if you know Welsh.

“Pwdin Ŵy” literally means ‘egg pudding’, or “egg custard’, two love songs.  “Pwdin Ŵy 1″ is a swinging song that features some nice layered vocals.  It’s upbeat and dancy.  “Pwdin Ŵy 2” is very different–it’s a mellow guitar song with a harmonica solo.

“Y Gwybodusion” (‘The Experts’) is a garage rock song with a cheesy synth solo.  The addition of a (cool) bass line half way through really fleshes the song out.

“Caerffosiaeth” is literally ‘sewage fortress’. ‘Caer’ is a common part of Welsh place-names used to indicate that there was a castle in the town.  It’s an all drum-machine rap full of sound effects.  As with all of the other songs he manages to make it really catchy by the end.

“Ambell Waith” (‘Sometimes‘) is a quiet folk song with interesting sound effects floating around.  The slight echo on everything makes it feel very full.  And the trumpet (!) solo comes as quite a surprise.

The final two songs are much longer than anything else on the disc.

“Ni Yw Y Byd” means ‘We Are The World,‘ but is not a cover.  It’s upbeat, four minutes long and feels fuller than the others.  It reminds me a bit of the melody of “The Gambler” and is therefore crazy catchy.  It’s even easy to singalong to even if you don;t know Welsh.  There’s a clapalong section followed by a flute solo.

“Chwarae’n Troi’n Chwerw” means ‘When Play Turns Bitter’ and comes from a Welsh proverb.  this song is a Welsh language standard originally written and sung by Caryl Parry-Jones.  It’s got a quiet electric guitar playing some lead riffs as he sings in a deeper register.  It ends with 30 seconds of quiet banjo playing.

This is a true solo record from Rhys–snippets, excerpts and home recordings.  It’s a quiet treat.

[READ: November 17, 2020] “New Poets”

When I started reading this story I was afraid that it was going to be one of those grimy violent stories that doesn’t exactly glorify bad behavior, but kind of revels in it.

The narrator, Monk, is recently sober, but he has had a string of bad luck and has moved in with an old college buddy named Dogman.  Dogman has not stopped drinking.  Indeed, he drinks a lot.  Which is odd because Dogman is an accountant in the Philadelphia office of one of the country’s largest banks.  It’s a boring job, so the weekend is for drinking.

They are in a pub (it’s the middle of the day) and Dogman tells Monk that a surprise guest is coming.  The guest is Sudimack.  Monk is really not happy about that. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE ROOTS feat. JILL SCOTT-“You Got Me” (1999).

I’ve wanted to listen to more from The Roots ever since I was exposed to them on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.  But as typically happens, I’m listening to other things instead.  So this seemed like a good opportunity to check them out (based on Samantha Irby’s rave below).

One of the best things about this recording (and The Roots in general) is Questlove’s drumming.  In addition to his being a terrific drummer, his drums sound amazing in this live setting.

Erykah Badu sings on the album but Jill Scott (Jilly from Philly) who wrote the part, sings here.

It starts out quietly with just a twinkling keyboard and Scott’s rough but pretty voice.  Then comes the main rapping verses from Black Thought.  I love the way Scott sings backing vocals on the verses and Black Thought adds backing vocals to the chorus.

Midway through the song, it shifts gears and gets a little more funky.  Around five minutes, the band does some serious jamming.  Jill Scott does some vocal bits, the turntablist goes a little wild with the scratching and Questlove is on fire.

Then things slow down for Scott to show off her amazing voice in a quiet solo-ish section.  This song shows off how great both The Roots and Jill Scott are.  Time to dig deeper.

[READ: November 1, 2020] Wow, no thank you.

This book kept popping up on various recommended lists.  The bunny on the cover was pretty adorable, so I thought I’d check it out. I’d never heard of Samantha Irby before this, but the title and the blurbs made this sound really funny.

And some of it is really funny. Irby is self-deprecating and seems to be full of self-loathing, but she puts a humorous spin on it all.  She also has Crohn’s disease and terribly irritable bowels–there’s lots of talk about poo in this book.

Irby had a pretty miserable upbringing.  Many of the essays detail this upbringing.  She also has low self-esteem and many of the essays detail that.  She also doesn’t take care of herself at all and she writes about that.  She also doesn’t really want much to do with children or dogs.  And yet somehow she is married to a woman with children.

From what some of these essays say, it sounds like she is married to this woman yet somehow lives an entirely separate life from the rest of the house.  It’s all rather puzzling, although I suppose if you are already a fan, you may know many of the details already. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BORIS-“urban dance” (2015).

Back in 2015, Boris released three albums on the same day all under the “new noise literacy” banner: “urban dance” “warpath” and “asia” [according to their label numbers, this is the order they go in].

All three records are experiments in abrasive noise.  Despite the adorable child on the covers, these records will scare children.

This album has five songs, two of which actually take a break from the relentless noise that’s present on “asia.”

“Un, deux, trois” (French for “One, Two, Three”) starts out with a series of distortion bursts, a beat of distortion coupled with a wall of noise that follows up.  It’s harsh and unwelcoming.  But at just over 4 minutes it’s one of the shorter noise compositions on these three discs.  Around three minutes it sounds like distorted electronic balloons being manipulated and then the air let out.  The noise drops of for the last seven seconds before the next song starts.

“Surrender” is pretty much the only thing resembling a proper song on these discs.  It’s got bass, drums, guitar and vocals.  It’s also got a melody.  The overall feeling is one of shoegaze and the melodies, both guitar and vocal are really pretty.  Although this being an album of noise, it couldn’t help but add a hugely noisy field of distortion to the middle of the song almost as an instrumental break.  There’s a second distortion interruption in the song that lasts long enough to make it seem like maybe there’s no more music.  But the song returns, keeping that melody until the end.

“Choreographer” is nearly nine minutes long.  It starts with a rumble and electronic feedbacking.  There’s some soaring sounds buried in the rumble–some lead guitar notes (feedbacking) that add a little structure to the noise; at times it sounds like a guitar trying to fight its way out of a pile of noise.

“Endless” is a little different than the other songs.  It has a bit more of a drone feel than a noise and distortion feel.  It’s still a wall of sound, but rather than a low rumble of noise, it’s more like high notes feeding of of each other.  After three minutes it feels like a distant dreamy melody is soaring in from afar.  A couple minutes later some drums come in, a militant beat putting some tempo to the rest of the sounds.  With about four minutes left, a series of four drum hits with a cymbal add a nice regular pattern to the song–making the drums an almost catchy element because of its consistency.  The end of the song has a bit more notable percussion until it drops out and the song fades on its own.

“Game of Death” is even longer at over 11 minutes.  It starts with sharp feedback and low pulsing space sounds full of distortion and noise.  But after a minute it turns into a full on raging distortion fest.  It feels like maybe two or more different sources of distortion rumbling in and playing atop the other ones.  About midway through, a higher-pitched distortion comes in and swirls around.  But for the most part it’s a relentless barrage of noise, with some interesting new (but still noisy) sounds in the last minute.

The album is credited to: takeshi: guitar, bass & vocals / wata: guitar & echo / atsuo: drums & electronics.

[READ: November 1, 2020] “Hungry Self”

I’ve noted that I rather enjoyed Rebecca Curtis’ more recent stories, so I was disappointed by how much I didn’t really like this one.

As I think about it there was nothing bad about it, it just felt a little flat and mean-spirited without much more.

The narrator is working at a Vietnamese restaurant.  She is a waitress.  She likes the boss’s son; he thinks she is disgusting.  One of the chefs likes her.  He has no teeth and sells cocaine in the basement.  She snorts with him but nothing else.

She noticed that a customer who sat down was her former therapist. The woman gave “the smile you give a waitress if you’re the kind of person who is nice to a waitress.”

Her ex-psychiatrist was overweight and this issue had caused them all trouble.  Initially, the waitress’ whole family was seeing the psychiatrist together and the waitress’ father commented about her weight.  He asked the waitress how much she thought the psychiatrist weighed and the waitress replied 260.  The psychiatrist insisted that they be seen individually from then on.

The next time, when the waitress was alone, the psychiatrist told the waitress about Harry’s Diet Pretzels which she now ate all the time.

The psychiatrist was very nice, but the waitress didn’t want that.

I wante a shirtty tip so I could have a reason for hating the fat ugly lesbian, a reason other than that she had once seen me cry.

The psychiatrist and her lover ordered lo mein (noodles in oil–food that the fat woman definitely did not need) and egg drop soup (the soup most likely to have a roach at the bottom).

When the psychiatrist left, the tip was good, “so as to say ‘We like you’ but not too good so as to say, ‘We feel bad for you obviously.'”

I wanted more to happen here.  Oddly enough I couldn’t tell where the story was set.  I initially thought Vietnam, but that doesn’t make sense.

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SOUNDTRACK: RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE-“Killing the Name” (1991).

I was living in Boston when this song came out.  It was an electrifying shot across the bow of institutional racism–thirty years before that terms was on everyone’s lips.

This song was amazingly catchy and very vulgar.

It had few lyrics, but they were repeated over and over–a chant, a call to action.

Some of those that work forces
Are the same that burn crosses…
Well now you do what they told ya…
Those who died are justified
For wearing the badge
They’re the chosen whites
You justify those that died
By wearing the badge
They’re the chosen whites…

The song begins with a staccato opening, then some thumping bass and drums.  A cow bell and off goes the riff.  It’s as jagged and aggressive as angry as the lyrics.

The bridge is a pounding three note blast as the sections repeat.

Then comes a guitar solo.  One thing I remember distinctly when this album came out was that most of the talk was of Tom Morello’s guitar playing.  The album stated in the liner notes “no samples, keyboards or synthesizers used in the making of this record.”  It was an odd disclaimer, but with the bizarre sounds that Morello made, it was fascinating to wonder how he did it all.

The solo came at the four minute mark and, if radio wanted to play the song, they could fade it right there (that’s still plenty long for the radio).  But if they didn’t, then the chaos began, with crashing drums, and a slow build as Zach de la Rocha started quietly and got louder the simple but effective refrain

Fuck you. I won’t do what you tell me.

A band anda  room full of people chanting that song might just frighten the authorities a bit.

And that’s why in 2020, that song is being played a lot.

[READ: October 15, 2020] “On Defense”

A quote attributed to Dostoyevsky (who evidently never said it) is”

The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.

This quote is in the visitor center of the Manhattan Detention Complex (known as The Tombs). De La Pava says The Tombs is “one of the most hideous places on earth.”

I have really enjoyed Sergio De La Pava’s fiction.  I knew that he was involved in the New York City court system (his novels were too detailed about the system for him not to be).  This essay is a non-fiction account of his time as a public defender (he is still in the system, and is now the legal director of New York County Defender Services).

It seems like the public defender is not always appreciated–he or she stands in the way of putting criminals behind bars.  But De La Pava’s experience (along with many of the accused) shows that he has the really hard but important task of keeping innocent people from unfair punishment. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE DISTRICTS-You Know I’m Not Going Anywhere (2020).

You Know I’m Not Going Anywhere is a pretty radical departure from their last album and a huge leap from their debut.  There are a lot of moody pieces that play with atmospheric sounds rather than outright melody.  Which is not to say that there isn’t a nice catchiness to the album, just that it comes from a different place.

It opens with the haunting, spooky “My Only Ghost” which would seem very out of place on any other release but really sets the tone for the experimentalism on this album.  It’s a quiet piece with vocals sung in falsetto harmony.  It’s an appropriately spooky opening with backwards guitars and atmospheric sounds.  It’s not even obviously The Districts.  Although the next song, “Hey Jo” certainly is.

“Hey jo” mixes acoustic guitars with that uniquely Districts-sounding guitar tone and a storytelling vibe.  The song feels very restrained with a quietly spoken section at the end and a nearly whispered coda tacked on.

It’s with the third song “Cheap Regrets” that The Districts show what they are really taking chances.  They called this track “nihilistic disco,” and that’s pretty apt.  This song is a great mix of disco sounds and a stellar bass line, with an unexpected amount of keyboard (for them).  It also contains a fantastic lead guitar line after the verses.  It’s one of my favorite songs of the year.

“Velour and Velcro” sounds more like old school Districts but updated and with new polish.  The song is catchy and bouncy with some cool guitar sounds.  “Changing” introduces the slower moodier section of the album with gentle acoustic guitar and somewhat warped sounding electric guitar.  There’s a rollicking chorus, but the song retains a moody element that continues into “Descend.”  The song has a pretty acoustic guitar with an almost sing-along melody.  It ends with a trippy series of keyboard washes as the song drifts away.  It segues, appropriately into “Clouds,” another gentle song.

“Dancer” is a similarly moody number with swirly synths. But that fantastic bass line keeps the song grounded and very interesting.

Things rock out again with “Sidecar.”  The old looseness is back with plenty of doo doo, doo doos and screamed vocals from Grote, but the song never feels like its going to get away from them.

“And the Horses All Go Swimming” starts the end of the disc with some swirling sounds.  It builds slightly before moving on to the delicate “4th of July” with the pretty acoustic guitar and super catchy (if somehow off-sounding) whistle.

It’s great to see The Districts exploring new sides to their music, I just hope they never lose that loose, rocking side.

[READ: October 1, 2020] “Reborn to Run”

This is an excerpt from Bonner’s The Book of Atlantis Black.  The intro comment calls this a memoir, so I’ll assume it is.

This excerpt is 7 numbered short sections.

First we see that the narrator’s older sister Nancy decided to run away by hopping a train (when she was 12).  She was gone for several hours but when she returned she only replied “Wouldn’t you like to know?” when the narrator asked if she had done it.

When she was 13, Nancy climbed out her window in the middle of the night and walked the nine miles to school only to arrive on time for first period.

Section four is written in an interesting way. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BENEVENTO/RUSSO DUO-Play Pause Stop (2006).

This is the final release (so far) by the Benevento/Russo Duo.  There were two earlier ones that have not be reissued yet.  This follows in a similar style to the previous one, with great drumming and a wonderfully full sound from Benevento’s keys.

This album featured 9 songs and this reissue includes five live bonus tracks.  There’s a few shorter songs (under three minutes), but most are longer.  Like the title track, “Play Pause Stop” which is almost 8 minutes long.  It starts as a slow pretty melody with a lots of distortion on the keys.  There’s vocals on this track, but it still counts as an instrumental because the only words are whoa whoa–a happy inclusion for the chorus.

“Echo Park” is one of the shorter songs. It starts with simple piano melody and distorted washes of sound.  It turns into a super catchy, bouncy song.  Similarly, “Soba” starts slow and moody and turns into a rocking rager.

“Best Reason To Buy The Sun” features a lot of wild drumming.  It’s bookeneded by a pretty keyboard.  “Powder” opens with a pretty, staccato guitar melody.  The credits online don’t say who is playing the guitar.  The melody is looped as backwards solos are added.  It’s one of the trippier songs on the record until “Hate Frame” later on.

“Something For Rockets” opens like a Flaming Lips song with soaring chords.  It shifts to a singsong melody on the keys and then returns to the soaring melody.   The best title on the record is clearly “Walking, Running, Viking.”  It’s only 3 minutes long–a simple melody with a catchy solo near the end.

“Hate Frame: is 8 minutes long. It’s centered around a pulsing that sounds like an alarm followed by a rumbling bass.  By the middle of the song the music has turns utterly trippy, shooting off in all directions until it comes crashing back down with some fast frenetic drums.  The disc ends with “Memphis,” a slow loping song that sounds like it would work for a Western.

The bonus tracks are live versions of “Echo Park,” “Soba,” Walking, Running, Viking,” and “Something for Rockets” which all sound like jamming versions of the original.  The biggest change comes in the live version of “Play Pause Stop.”  It runs to nearly eleven minutes and stars with several minutes of noise and nonsense.  It’s surprising how long the noise goes on–they must have been having a blast.

[READ: August 31. 2020] Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come

I bought this book for my son on a whim.  It was his birthday and the title made me laugh.  Now, he’s not much of a reader these days and it’s pretty unlikely that he would read a book like this, anyhow.  I knew when I bought it that if he didn’t read it I would certainly give it a go.

I thought that this book was going to be a funny look at an introvert going out and having a hilariously awkward time at various events.  I assumed it was comic essays.  Boy was I wrong.  This is, as the subtitle says, a book about Jessica Pan’s decision to start doing things.  This may not sound that compelling and when I first realized what the book was, I was a little disappointed–I wanted funny essays.  But then I read on about the things she actually said “yes” to and the book became inspiring (even if I’ll never do the things she did).

Pan starts out by saying that she doesn’t think anyone needs to be “cured” (introvert extrovert or otherwise).  But that she was unhappy and wanted to make a change.

Then she divides people in to two categories–those who would happily go to the Glastonbury festival and those who watch it on TV as if it was a horror show.  Obviously, as a painfully shy introvert she would not be going to Glastonbury.

Nearly one third of the population identify as introverts–people who gain their energy from being alone.  Meanwhile, extroverts get their energy from being around other people.   But there are two other parameters: shy and outgoing.  Some introverts can be confident in groups or when giving a presentation–they just can’t take the stimulation of large crwds for extended periods of time.  Then there are other like her who are shy as well–this is what she felt was making her miss out on things. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PHIL PULEO-Phil Puleo’s poly”WOG” 1996​-​2003 (2003/2020).

Phil Puleo has been the drummer for Swans for a number of years.  He has also been in Cop Shoot Cop and a number of other bands.  He also lived in New Jersey and was a good friend of a good friend of mine.  So I’ve hung out with him a few times and was pretty excited for him to get the gig with Swans.  I was really looking forward to seeing them this past winter, but theirs was one of the first shows to get postponed until next year.

So Phil has reissued (and remastered) some of his solo projects.

This one is described as

Highly effected samples of me playing various instruments. Guitar, Piano, Bass, Percussion, Electronic percussion, hammered dulcimer, harmonica, found audio recordings, weird answering machine messages etc.  Many of these tracks were recorded around the Swans are Dead tour in 1997 in my home in NJ.

So you get fourteen tracks of warped instrumental songs.  They sound like a soundtrack to a world that is slightly out of phase with ours.

“Italianato” is basically the music for “La Vie en Rose” performed on a a pipe organ that’s underwater.  But its ten minutes are filled with all kinds of samples that break through the surface.  By about four minutes the main melody has been stripped away to pulses of keyboards and samples of a woman saying “Are you too young to remember that?  You are.”  Along with a slowed voice saying “I’m a depressing motherfucker.” And that same earlier voice repeating “You are.”

“Can Somebody” opens with a somber piano that’s accompanied by swirling waves of high notes.  An answering machine plays through as if from another world. I’m really enamored of the simple melody that starts after the message, like a mechanical bird singing a robotic song.

“I” is a minute and a half of a slow echoing piano melody while “Ahoy” soars with a violin-like instrument fluttering around.  Until a more sinister noise comes from under the depths, surfacing again and again.

“Mother’s Plot” is based around percussive sounds.  There’s also distant voices processed to sound almost like chanting.  “Vio” messes around with some loosely tuned guitars and a harmonica, a kind of under the sea Western.  Although half way through the song grows a bit brighter with clean guitars strumming a pretty melody.  “Message” has a deep pulsing sound and delicate sprinkling of chimes and piano as a man leaves a message about burning the whole place to the ground and needing an alibi.  Yikes!

“Slow By” has some plucked almost Spanish guitar enveloped by more of that pulsing sound.  Once the percussion comes in the melody establishes itself to create a really interesting soundtrack.  “Overgrown” has a melody based around what sounds like a dulcimer.  There’s some interesting guitar sounds that come and go and a noise that sounds like a cow (but isn’t).  The rubbery sound quality in this song is really terrific.

“Hill 503” is an exploration of what constitutes percussion.  A steady drumbeat is accompanied by other sounds (including a violin bow banging strings) that grow and recede. By the end, an echoing guitar line re-introduces a kind of Western feel to the piece.

“Tumble” has some wooden percussion underpinning the sounds of children playing in the distance  It sets for a potentially bucolic scene.  Especially when combined with “Wog Maia,” a pretty guitar song with gently echoed piano and processed children’s voices.

“Indian Guy” has some gentle dulcimer in what sounds like an urban landscape. The “solo” sounds like it was manipulated by some proto-Auto-tune.  “All New Baby” has some more lovely hammered dulcimer playing over the top of some sinister backing chords.  The second half cycles through rising seven note patterns that provide some excellent tension.

“Everything” is the reissue’s bonus track.  It does sound like he’s crammed everything that’s gone before into 90 seconds.  Waves and waves of noises that resolve in a tidy little guitar piece.

This is not easy listening, but it is very evocative and visual.  I’d watch whatever movie this was a soundtrack to.

[READ: August 20, 2020] “Digestions”

I was surprised to learn that I had not read anything by Jim Crace before–his name sounded so familiar.

This piece is several very short stories about food.

“Mussels on the House” is the best one.  In it, the chef of The Yellow Basket likes to take revenge on unsatisfied customers by giving them less than good mussels.  The locals enjoy hearing the stories of the politician or the couple planing a divorce or the state executive whose evening did not end how they planned.

“George’s Magic Cookies” may have been given to a man on death row.  It certainly would have made the moments after his last meal happy ones.  George thinks that he might still be flying. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LILA IKÉ-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #67 (August 19, 2020).

Lila Iké is a Jamacian singer.  Although her music has reggae foundations, her vocals transcend the basics of reggae.

The set starts with “Solitude.”

 On “Solitude,” she blends avant-garde R&B with contemporary reggae in a hauntingly elegant song complemented by violinist Sean “Ziah” Roberts.

The opening guitar from Stephen Welsh is four notes that sound like “Stairway to Heaven” and for a split second I had no idea what to expect.  It’s the reggae bass line from Dane Peart that grounds the song.  The biggest surprise to me was the addition of a violinist Sean “Ziah” Roberts–not something I associate with reggae.  Backing singers Tori-Ann Ivy and Ovasha Bartley add some gentle backing harmonies and some fun choreography.

“I Spy” starts with that standard reggae staccato guitar riff and some fun drum fills from Kristoff Morris and Stephen Forbes.

Most of the band is socially distanced, although not everyone is (it’s a fairly cramped space and there are people off camera as well).

“Forget Me” is a slower song with prominent keyboards from Wade Johnson and gorgeous backing vocals.  There’s a lovely violin solo at the end.

For the final song, “Thy Will” all of the singers stand up.

The song (which borrows from the iconic reggae rhythm section Sly & Robbie) ends the set with an uptempo banger.

There’s some groovy sliding bass and a series of solos from all of the musicians at the end.

[READ: August 20, 2020] “Cicadia”

The narrative style of this story loops around a timeline.  We project forward and flashback as the actual motion of the story is just three boys heading to a party.

It’s a Saturday night in 1986 in suburban Cincinnati.  Max, Rodney and Ben are heading into senior year. They have been best friends forever.  Rodney drives, Max sits in the backseat while Ben, shotgun, tries to roll a joint.

Earlier they sneaked into Rodney’s brother Oscar’s room to steal his weed.  Rodney is convinced that Oscar will kill him when he finds out, but in one of the fascinating timeline shifts the story provides,

Oscar is going to be their savior, as he always is.  Oscar the berserker bursting onto the scene with exquisite timing, creating mayhem and staring down Blaine’s cohort of pretty boys who are ready to thrash Rodney and Ben and especially Max.

They are heading to a party where Max will be winked at by a girl in a red beret. It was a definite wink.  In fact, the winks seemed to keep coming all night

Then the story flashes forward to the party where Max punches Blaine and Blaine falls into the pool.  To me, it’s unclear if this is a real party or if Max is remembering a movie.  [Pretty in Pink]  Someone falling in a pool?  [Every movie ever] Everyone cheered when Blaine fell into the pool except the girl with the red beret–for she had left already.

Back in the car, they tease Ben for not being able to roll a joint .  It is pudgy in the middle but it “has a joint-like presence.”  (A phrase that Max really liked).

While all of this is going on Max (the philosophical one) is thinking about their past together and how he is evolving from his friends.  He nearly got a perfect score on the SAT without even trying.  He now kicks himself for the few questions he got wrong–he will try again to get a perfect score.  He’s also planned to stop reading Stephen King and start reading the authors whom Lou Reed recommends.

As the get close to the party, they realize they are lost.  They ask directions from a man walking his dog.  But as the man talks to them, his dog, Cupcake, poops on a neighbor’s lawn and that neighbor yells, “Really Harold, again?”

Harold starts to tell them where to go but when the neighbor charges at Harold with an aluminum bat, Harold and Cupcake hop in the cars and they drive off.  Harold seems pretty fun until he starts asking about the smell in the car.  The boys aren’t sure if he’s going to narc on them or if he wants some.

Then the story has a little perspective shift and addresses… the reader?

maybe, like Max, you know where this is heading … and maybe you’re tapping the person next to you and telling him or her, I know what’s going to happen, because you;re the kind of person who can predict these things… and if you had wanted to, well, you could have been a writer yourself.

But the boys make it to the party, as the story said they would.  And they debate how they should go about selling Oscar’s pot.

There’s a really fun last line.

And yet, I genuinely can’t decide if this is a story or an excerpt from a novel.  There is so much detail that it feels novel-like. I feel like these three characters have a lot more life to show us.

There’s so much potential for time shifting and narrative address, that a lot more could go on here.  At the same time, too much might overwhelm a novel. And it does feel complete, if confusing as a story.

I enjoyed it either way.

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SOUNDTRACK: BORIS-Archive Volume One “Live 96-98” (2005/2020)

In early August, Boris digitally released six archival releases.  Volume One is called “Live 96-98” and that’s what it contains.  There’s eight songs all recorded in the same place Koenji 20000V, once a year or so.

Originally released in 2005 from the US label “aRCHIVE”, limited to 600 copies which sold out immediately. Compiled from live recordings during Boris’s “Power Violence” period 1996 – 1998, including songs from the 1998 studio album “Amplifier Worship” and Archive Volume Zero “Early Demo”.  (Reissued as part of Archive 1 on March 5, 2014. Limited to 1,000 copies).

The first two songs were recorded in December 1996.  They are not for the faint of heart.

“Huge” is a ten minute drone.  It’s full of feedback and slow chord progressions that repeat until after five minutes, when Wata hits a high note and Atsuo starts screaming along with the thumping drums.  It segues into “Hush” which is 53 seconds of thrash: pounding guitar and drums, including something of a drum solo by the end while someone sings to it.

The next chunk of songs were recorded six months earlier.  “Soul Search You Sleep” is nearly 9 minutes of crashing chords with lots of screamed vocals.  There’s a brief fast section before the slow drones return.  Wata takes a guitar solo near the end which segues into “Vacuuum” which is a minute and a half long.  It starts with that wailing guitar solo until the pummeling drums and screamed vocals take over.  It ends with feedback that segues into “Mosquito” a slower song that has chanted vocals from both Atsuo and Takeshi.

“Mass Mercury” was recorded almost a year later.  Things aren’t radically different, but they allow some of the noise to drop away a bit more.  It opens with feedback and fast riffing guitars.  After a minute and a half everything drops out but some pulsing bass and guitar effects from Wata. The pulsing runs through to the end after a middle section of growls and drums.  It segues into “Scar Box,” which is a big slow riff.  Unexpectedly, mid song it briefly turns into a crushing hardcore song with shouted growly vocals until it slows back to crashing heavy chords.

The final track is the newest of the bunch.  It’s 8 minutes long and starts as a fast hardcore song.  Then a bass and drum rumble takes over and things slow down while Wata makes some airplane-like sounds it her guitar.  The solo loops and phases through to the end until about a minute left when both singers start shouting through to the crashing end.

I’m not sure if they are singing in Japanese or just growling, but it’s a pretty intense 45 minutes of live music.

[READ: August 12, 2020] A Very Punchable Face

I wasn’t really sure how I felt about Colin Jost.  I like him on Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update and yet as the title of his book says, he has a very punchable face.  And, as I say every time I read a memoir–I don’t really care about memoirs all that much.  And yet here’s another one I’ve read.  And it’s yet another one from a cast member of Saturday Night Live–a show that I don’t think is all that great (but the memoirs are usually quite good).

There was an excerpt form this book in the New Yorker and it made me laugh at loud, so I looked forward to reading the rest of the book.

The beginning is interesting in that he says he had a hard time learning to speak–an odd thing for a TV news presenter.  But really the most fun part starts when he tells us about the astonishing amount of bad fortune he has had–his delivery about it all is hilarious.

The chapter “You’re Gonna Need Stitches” lists the six times (throughout his life) that he has had to get stitches–one was from getting a surfboard to the face!  Indeed there are two stories of surfing –not something I expected from a guy from Staten Island.  The second one involves being saved by Jimmy Buffet (and how much Jost enjoys eating at Margaritaville restaurants–I can’t get over how much alcohol must be consumed at a this franchise).  There’s also a crazy story about him visiting Google and getting injured by the VR machine.  He even somehow managed to possibly have insect eggs laid under his skin.  Ew! (more…)

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