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Archive for the ‘Essays’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: BLACK MOTION-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #233 (July 8, 2021).

 Black Motion specializes in Afro-House and this set is infectious.

Afro-House has spread joy and healing across the country of South Africa, transcending local boundaries to become a thriving global dance phenomenon. In my experience, Its indigenous sounds and percussive rhythms drench the soul and heart with healing powers and cultivate communion with the infinite.

This Afro-House set is brought to life thanks to several featured vocalists and guest musicians.  Black Motion’s Tiny Desk (home) concert, recorded at the former residence of Nelson Mandela, feels like a spiritual sound bath. The South African production duo turntablist Bongani Mohosana of the Zulu tribe and percussionist Thabo Mabogwane of Sotho tribe — open their set with “Mayibuye iAfrica,” a cry for Africa to return to its culture and history.

“Mayibuye iAfrica” opens with a fun introduction.  There’s whooping, growling, cawing, (from DJ and producer Bongani Mohosana and keyboardist Almotie “Alie-keyz” Mtomben).  There’s some great percussion (producer and drummer Thabo Roy Mabogwane’s set has over ten different drums and a few cymbals).  Then, after a minute or so Siyabonga Hosana Magagula’s grooving bass and Lifa “Sir_Lifa” Mavuso’s slow but perfect-sounding guitar enter the picture.

Then the singers come in singing a beautiful chorus.  The three of them are: Lusindiso “Jojo” Zondani (tenor), Gugu Shezi (soprano) and Noxolo Radebe (alto), and there voices gel wonderfully.

Up next is “Rainbow” which shuffles along with the DJs sampling and a simple keyboard melody (that sounds a bit like The Way It Is).

South African singer Msaki makes her third appearance in our (home) concert series, after earlier credits with Black Coffee and our Coming 2 America special. She lends her vocals to “Marry Me,” a soulful jam from Black Motion’s 2020 album, The Healers: The Last Chapter.

Next up is “Marry Me.” Msaki sings lead vocals on this song which has a grooving echoing lead guitar. “Alie-keyz” plays a cool retro organ solo before “Sir_Lifa” jams out a guitar solo.

Interestingly, Msaki’s voice was relatively deep, but on the next song, “Joy Joy,” Brenden Praise’s voice is pretty high (in the choruses).  For the verses, he sings a bit deeper.  I like the way the backing vocalists sound like gospel singers here.

“Imali,” featuring Nokwazi, soothes the lingering remnants of pandemic fears,

The snare drum introduces the colorfully dress Nokwazi who sings “Imali.”  Her call and response singing is really great, as is her intense, growling style.

Tabia closes with the lilting “Prayer for Rain.”

Tabia comes out for “Prayer For Rain” and says “let’s pray” as she sings some wordless notes to warm up the song.  When she starts singing, I don’t know what language she’s singing, but the passion is palpable.  And the thunderclap that DJ Bongani Mohosana adds at the end is a welcome touch.

This is a powerful and moving (emotionally and physically) set of songs.

[READ: May 10, 2021]  “Easy, Tiger”

After reading David’s story about shopping in Tokyo, it was funny to go backwards and read about one of his first few trips abroad and how he started learning the local language(s).

He says that he had been using Pimsleur Japanese and felt fairly comfortable when in Japan.  But on this trip he was also going to Beijing and he had forgotten to study.

But this is not so much about China as it is about learning languages in general.

Since he doesn’t drive, phrases like “as for gas, is it expensive” don’t really help him out.  But he uses “fill her up please” when asking for a tea refill.  He also gets to say that he is a man with children since they do not have a phrase for “I am am middle aged homosexual…  with a niece I never see and a small godson.”

He recommends Pimsleur for pronunciations and memorization.  But he also likes Lonely Planet. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKDRY CLEANING-“Her Hippo,”  and “Leafy” (album versions) (2020).

After listening to the Dry Cleaning Tiny Desk (Home) Concert, I wanted to hear the recorded versions since the blurb talked about how different they sounded.

Indeed, these versions sound very different from the Tiny Desk Concert.  Well, actually it’s the guitars sound very different because guitarist Tom Dowse is playing electric rather than acoustic.  But it changes the whole tone of the songs.

On the record, “Her Hippo” opens with quiet but sharp electric guitars that echo as the riff circles around. Lewis Maynard’s bass sounds the same, but Nick Buxton’s drums push this song into more of a rock territory (he played keys and electronic percussion in the Tint Desk)..

Florence Shaw’s vocal delivery is similar but perhaps a but more empathic while being heard over the more rocking band.  The middle part features just the rumbling bass and Dowse’s sharp (but simple) guitar solo.

“Unsmart Lady” opens with roaring, echoing wild guitars and thumping drums.  When he starts playing the main (weird) guitar chords they make more “sense” on the electric guitar, but they are still noisy and abrasive.  Dowse wrenches all kinds of screeching feedback and squeals out of his guitar.  The Tiny Desk version sounded really good, but this version is fantastic.

At the Tiny Desk “Leafy” was all delicate synth, but on the record, Dowse plays a kind of lead solo throughout the song–melodic and pretty while keeping the bass company.

I’m glad I listened to the recorded versions of these.  But I’m also glad I listened to the Tiny Desk (Home) Concert first, because hearing the structure of the songs was a great way to be unprepared for the distortion of the recorded versions.  I’m looking forward to hearing the rest of the record–and seeing them live.

[READ: May 10, 2021]  “The Perfect Fit”

This is a hilarious essay about shopping in Tokyo.  It’s especially funny to imagine David and his sisters running around the city buying all manner of strange clothes.  Because if there’s one thing we know about the Sedaris family, it’s that they love odd items.

They stayed in Ebisu so they could shop at their favorite place Kapitol.  He talks about all of the delightfully odd clothes they sell there.  The store is still open, here’s a fun piece.

The store’s motto seems to be “why not?”  They make clothes that refuse to flatter you.   A shirt whose arm holes are not made like a capital T but like a lower case t. A jacket that poofs out at the small of your back where for no reason there’s a pocket.  He bought three hats that he wore stacked. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SLEATER-KINNEY-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #231 (July 1, 2021).

Sleater-Kinney were once an abrasive riot grrl band with vocals that were challenging and guitar riffs that were often abrasive.  The songs and the vocals intertwined in fascinating ways, making music like nobody else.

They took a lengthy hiatus and reemerged sounding a little different.  Then they released another album which sounded very different (so different that it caused Janet Weiss, holy drummer of the trio, to depart).

That album was not Sleater-Kinney.  It was good, very good in fact, it just wasn’t the same band.  Now, they’ve released another album and this one verges even further from their trio sound.

It’s still good, but it’s disconcerting that our two guitar-wielding singers aren’t playing much in the way of guitars.

“Path of Wellness” opens with a funky drum beat (from Vince Lirocchi) and bass.  Bass!  The gypsies had no home and Sleater-Kinney had no bass.  Well now they do in the form of Bill Athens.

On the previous album I bemoaned that Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker’s vocals didn’t intertwine like they used to.  It’s nice that the two sing the song together.  The vocals are much closer to traditional harmonies than untraditional S-K vocals.  But there is a bit of that wild S-K interchange in the voices.  And, once the song takes off in the middle though, Carrie plays some leads and Corin plays big loud chords.

Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein sing of human frailty and self-improvement, vibrating with low notes of disgust. Then Brownstein shoots Tucker a knowing smile as they sing, “You could never love me enough,” and the pair, who have been making music together for nearly 30 years, start to unwind things: Brownstein hisses “I am on a path of wellness” through gritted teeth before ripping into a four-note riff that feels like it’s pulling your guts out; Tucker sets her voice at maybe 75 percent howl capacity to sing “I feel like I’m unknown” and Brownstein still has to raise a hand to steady herself against the force. She can’t stop grinning.

“High In The Grass” feels looser and hazier than on the album;

“High In The Grass” has Corin playing the chords, Carrie playing the main riff and third guitarist Fabi Reyna playing the high lead read.  I don’t know if Corin would have normally played that or not, but having an extra guitar doesn’t hurt.

Corin sings this song rather delicately, in a kind of soft falsetto.  But when they get to the chorus is sounds like classic S-K vocals.

The guitars are pretty awesome in the middle part as all three women play different things  Corin is playing chords up and down the neck, Carrie has some riffage going on in the middle and Fabi is playing a scorching feedbacky solo.

Track three is a surprise.  Going back to 2002’s One Beat, they play the title song.  Corin and Carrie put down their guitars and keyboardist Galen Clark plays piano while Bill Athens plays bowed upright bass.

“One Beat” played with piano and bowed upright bass, making it that much easier to hear how, by the end, Tucker’s pleas and Brownstein’s yelp have been inextricably knitted together.

The album version is spare intertwined guitars and tribal drums–a very different sound.

“Worry With You” feels heavier [than the album].

The guitar riff sounds very S-K, and the guitars (and keys) do bring a heaviness to the proceedings.  The verses are jumpy and erratic but they resolve into one of their catchiest chrouses yet.

So yes, you can hear Sleater-Kinney in this album. But one aspect of the band is definitely gone.  Nevertheless, the core remains and it sounds terrific.

[READ: June 10, 2021]  “Standing By: Fear, loathing, flying.”

It was fascinating to read this article in 2021 because at the end he talks about fearing to ask the person near him on line who they voted for.  I wondered when he wrote this because it really applies to pretty much any election in the 21st century.

The essay opens with the joke that when your flight is delayed it’s a national tragedy–why isn’t this on the news!  But when you hear about it from someone else, it’s totally ho hum.

But mostly he gets to be snooty about his fellow passengers.  Like the guy next to him in a T-shirt and shorts:

It’s as if the person next to you had been washing shoe polish off a pig then suddenly threw down his sponge saying, “Fuck this.  I’m going to Los Angeles.”

He also talks about flight attendant friends who have given him some insight.  “I’ll be right back” is code for “Go fuck yourself.”  When he asked another attendant how he dealt with unruly travelers, the answer (at the end of the essay) is very satisfying.

He talks about another flight in which he saw an old woman with her young grandchildren who were dressed beautifully–like children from a catalogue.  The boy was even wearing a tie–clip on, but that’s ok. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: FROM THE TOP-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #230 (June 30, 2021).

Here’s three young classical performers playing some amazing piece of music.

From the Top is the radio program (distributed by NPR) that spotlights today’s terrific young players.

Teenagers from three locales around the country – Chicago, St. Louis and Palo Alto, Calif. – invite us into their homes for fresh takes on vintage classics, contemporary sounds and sophisticated pop arrangements.

Up first is a cello from Ifetayo Ali-Landing.  The song is by Yebba called  “Evergreen” (arr. Charles Yang).  I don’t know this song, but I really like it.  The cello sounds fantastic and the melody is delightfully complex and yet not unmelodic. I love the way she occasionally bounces the bow off the strings, for a really neat effect–very percussive.

Ifetayo Ali-Landing, an outstanding 18-year-old cellist from Chicago starts us off. She’s already performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and given her own TEDx talk. One of her calling cards is this propulsive performance of “Evergreen,” a pop song by Yebba, arranged for solo cello.

Up next is a guitar duo by Jack and Elle Davisson.  They play Paulo Bellinati’s “Jongo.” This is their favorite duo performance because of the rhythm and the beat.  Jack opens with some wonderful classical fingering and then Elle follows with a similar melody.  Then Jack plays a lead while Elle taps out a rhythm on the strings.  But from there it’s hard to pick out who is doing what–each player has something special and complicated going on.  Elle plays some lovely harmonics and a kind of bass string solo while Jack picks the complicated lead.  And just when you think you get the whole piece, the two of them play a lengthy percussive section tapping and slapping on all parts of their guitars–a drum solo in the middle of this classical piece.

Pairing up in Palo Alto, the Davisson Guitar Duo features Jack, 16, and his sister Elle, 13. Their signature piece is the rhythmically driven Jongo, which offers flavors from composer Paulo Bellinati’s native Brazil. The siblings finish each other’s musical phrases with startling lyrical precision.

The final piece is solo piano by Jerry Chang.  He performs Franz Schubert: “Impromptu Op. 90, No. 3.”  It sounds amazing and his description of the song that it reminds him of being in a garden, is really interesting.

Seventh-grader Jerry Chang, clad in his comfy exercise shorts, closes this cross-country Tiny Desk from home, playing Schubert’s G-flat major Impromptu like someone twice his age. The gentle, rippling effects he gets from his still-growing 13-year-old hands, and the way he makes Schubert’s wistful melody sing, is astonishing.

[READ: May 10, 2021]  “Now We Are Five”

Only Davis Sedaris could find humor in his sister committing suicide.  This piece is very poignant and quite moving but there’s still dark humor in there.

I begins by saying that his parents had six children and people were always startled to hear his.  Six kids!  But now that Tiffany had killed herself, they were only five.

Six months before she killed herself David rented a house on Emerald Isle in North Carolina.  The family had gone there when they were kids and he thought it would be a fun way for the family to get together.

When they were kids David always grabbed the master bedroom until he was kicked out.  Then he often wound up staying in the maid’s room–which was usually outside. The others banded together against him, since he was clearly the weakest at this point. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ANI DIFRANCO-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #208 (May 10, 2021).

I was a huge fan of Ani DiFranco when she came out.  I loved her indie style and her cool percussive acoustic guitar playing.  I stopped listening to her when she turned more jazzy/soulful.  Given her vast output, I’ve probably missed about fifteen albums.  Actually, when I looked her up, I see that she has slowed down on her studio output (so it’s only about 9 albums that i haven’t heard).

I thought that perhaps I would enjoy her newer stuff is it was played acoustically lie this.  And I realized I really liked this first song, which I assumed was new.  But, in fact it’s from an album I have.

Ani opened her set with “Everest” from the 1999 album, Up Up Up Up Up Up, a song that for me is about viewing life through different lenses and finding beauty.

I probably haven’t listened to this album in a decade, but this reminded me of why I liked her so much back then.  The melody and her guitar picking style is so expressive and her lyrics, as always are thoughtful.  I love the sound she gets from her guitar too, so rich, with a great low end.

I was actually a little surprised that she played these older songs, because her new album is getting some airplay (around here at least).  But “Not a Pretty Girl” is such an iconic feminist song that it’s always great to hear.

Next, she sings the title track to her 1995 album, Not a Pretty Girl, which shakes the shackles of stereotypes.

She switches to a hollow-bodied electric guitar for this song (with some interesting tuning, I’m guessing).  Again, terrific sound.  What’s interesting is that when she first sang this song, she sang with bite in her voice.  Now, all these years later, the song still resonates, but her delivery is now from a different perspective–she’s seen it all, for far too long and she knows that we all know it.

Ani DiFranco has always done things her way, and for this Tiny Desk (home) concert, she’s a one-woman team, filming and recording herself in the front hall of her New Orleans home and studio, Big Blue. The not-so-tiny desk you see in the hallway was her great grandfather’s. Other personal items seen as we scan her home include a purple painting of a tree by her cousin Jim Mott and a portrait of a woman and ghostly girl by a painter named Renata. At the time of this recording, Ani was planning to move after more than 10 years at Big Blue, so this concert is likely one of the last performances to take place in that space.

She does play a new song, though.

 Her final song for this (home) concert is from her 22nd album and her latest release, Revolutionary Love. The song brings compassion to troubled times by dismissing hatred — or in her words, “To forgive but not forget.” It’s a message that shows the beauty and power of this artist, and her heart.

“Revolutionary Love” brings in guitar number 3, an acoustic guitar with a different sound than the first one.   The song has a great melody and sounds very different from the recorded version.  I much prefer this acoustic version than the produced version that has horns and keys.  I really love the way she plays–using her thumb and fingers in a very distinctive playing style.  Her voice sounds fantastic throughout–with clarity and power

[READ: June 1, 2021] “Commando”

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

Interestingly, this essay is not actually about the movie Commando, but about movies like it.  It’s about when he and his friends would imitate the movies and play “commando” in the woods–they were no doubt validated when Commando was released.

They had the perfect location.

Because, yes the woods behind our house do look like a Central American jungle.  And of course it was the perfect place to reenact scenes from First Blood or Raiders of the Lost Ark–of hunting and being hunted.

Within hours of leaving the theatre, we would put on our fatigues (we called them camos) throw our weapons and accessories in our backpacks, get on our bikes, and ride down to the ravines by the beach.

[I can recall doing just what he says (although not in such a dangerous way)–replicating what we saw in the movies]. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MOSES BOYD-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #207 (May 7, 2021).

Moses Boyd is a jazz (primarily) drummer from England.

The Church Studios in North London is an institution, home to some of the most iconic records of the last three decades…. From the hallowed Neve Room, Moses Boyd and his band remind us that the U.K. jazz scene still bangs. They also remind us that COVID-19 regulations are much stricter across the pond: physical distancing is the name of the game in this at home concert.

The set begins with “Stranger Than Fiction,” a bouncy grime tune that features saxophonist Quinn Oulton, whose pedals lend his horn a dark and haunting quality.

The song starts with Moses playing some fabulous rhythms.  Renato Paris plays a choppy but funky bass line that melds into a groove while there’s some lead sax soloing from Quinn Oulton.  Later in the song both Paris and Oulton play the same melody giving it a really big sound.  The guitar goes almost unnoticed until nearly four minutes in when Artie Zaitz gets a cool solo.

Boyd humbly introduces the band and slips right into “2 Far Gone,” and we get a chance to sink our teeth into his virtuosic drumming. Dynamic, at times explosive, and always tasteful, he lays down a bed of rhythm that gives keyboardist Renato Paris and guitarist Artie Zaitz plenty of room to shine. T

It’s fun to watch Moses play from over his shoulder from where you can see all of the interesting things he’s doing including rim shits, paradiddles and even a drum stick flip that appears more functional than fancy.  It’s a pretty lengthy intro before the keys and sax come in, sounding echoing and far away.  Paris’s solo has a total space synth vibe—it’s great and feels very proggy to me.

“BTB” is a funky Afrobeat tune with an infectious melody that serves as the perfect closer.

Zaitz plays a looping guitar melody while the bass note pulses.  Then the sax comes in and takes over the main melody while Zaitz plays filigrees between.  And of course, all the while, Boyd’s drumming is fantastic.  Although, focusing on him while Zaitz is playing some cool solos is a bit uncool.  But I love the wall of sound the band generates by the end.

[READ: June 1, 2021] “Immortality”

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

Gary Shteyngart became a man in 1985 (according to Jewish tradition) while he was summering in the Catskills.

During the work week the cabins were inhabited by grandmas and their charges.  An unhappy local middle aged woman would shout “Bread! Cakes!” and the week old raspberry Danish on sale for a quarter tasted as good as anything he had ever known.

His grandmother has always been tough

women who had come of age under Stalin, whose entire lives in the USSR had been devoted to crisis management, to making sure the arbitrary world around them would treat their children better than it had treated them.

His father was at the apex of middle age and loved to fish.  Each year he caught hundreds if not thousands of fish out of streams, lakes and oceans with a three dollar bamboo fishing rod and a chilling competence. (more…)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[READ: June 1, 2021] “Old Enough”

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

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

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

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

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

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SOUNDTRACK: NEGATIVLAND-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #206 (May 6, 2021).

I’ve been a fan of Negativland since 1987 when I discovered Escape From Noise.  I even saw them live back in 2000–a very unusual concert, indeed.  I should have known that Bob Boilen knew of Negativland–he knows everything–but it’s always a surprise when someone has heard of them.

It may at first seem that Negativland’s sound collage is an unlikely candidate for a Tiny Desk concert, but honestly, how many bands can you think of making music since the late 1970s while sitting pretty much at their desks? Formed in the Bay Area, Negativland are proud subverters of culture, causing trouble while having fun.

Negativland are provocateurs, taking aim at the media and how technology alters our perception of the world. You can hear that on their 2020 album, The World Will Decide. This Tiny Desk (home) concert looks frightfully similar to the way many of us work these days — on video conference calls, reacting in real-time to our colleagues, dissecting our interactions … but also occasionally having fun.

Negativland create four tracks in 18 minutes–it’s samples and original music looped and repeated.

The found sounds of Negativland come from original members David Wills, Mark Hosler, and Jon Leidecker (from left to right on the bottom of the screen), with visuals by Kevin Slagle [digital images] and Sue Slagle [print images–you can see her hands] (top of the screen).

I don’t know if these songs come from an album or if they were made just for this Concert.  The first track “It’s Normal” opens with a sample saying “It’s normal for something to come to your attention/you’re watching live music online/the national anthem is being sung to a click track that you can’t hear.” And another saying “It’s Ok, ask me if it’s gong to be okay.”

Then a beat starts and all five start waving their finger to the beat.  Holser was wearing a pug mask.  When he takes it off he is wearing a Coronavirus mask, but he takes that off too–but all you can see is his gear.  Davd Willis (The Weatherman) has one of the more notable recorded voices in “music.”  I’m delighted to hear him speak, although he doesn’t just yet.  To start with he’s just playing with a mirror.

Then Jon asks what year is that Booper from?  Willis answers “2010 it never leaves Seattle.”  “It never leaves Seattle?” “Damn right.”

Samples continue, “we’re goin to verify every single experience.  Of course you can’t record everything that happens.”

The noise segues into “No Brain” with a sample “the simple fact is the world is trillions of times more complicated than we experience it.”  Samples of “meaningless data” and David playing with a remote that’s making buzzing sounds.  David: “my favorite remote control.”

The sample says “the world turns to meet your gaze” as it segues into “Reality Game.”   The sample: “we’re going to verify every single experience.”  And “You don’t have to pay people to participate.  Participation is its own reward.”

Throghout the clips there’s been all kinds of visuals floating around.  Scenes from movies and random patterns, as well as words that float around on pieces of paper.  Then comes a clip of whales floating in space.

Sample: “Patterns.  We think that they mean something.  Transparent bowling balls with monkeys inside them hooked up to the biometric monitors floating in outerspace.”

A new sample, “What does subaltern mean?”  (Willis laughs… “angry guinea pigs, hee hee”.  “You will have no idea who else is playing the game” (“I don’t give a damn”)  “Got it?” (Nope).

Then Jon asks David, are you in the mood for singing?  I might be.  Yea ,I’m getting a bit more excited.  I feel like I might want to sing.”  This is all intro to “I’m Going To Sing Now.”  of course his singing is just mumbling incoherent nonsense and making silly noises, including “I’m singing at the Tiny Desk.  I have no idea what that means but I’m doing it.”  I alwyas wondered if The Weatherman was crazy.  This des not help in my decision.

The song ends with the sample, “So this person can in fact sing.”

After some silence, David asks, “Is that it?” and then someone triggers the sample: “Shop as usual…. and avoid panic buying” (as heard on Escape from Noise).

O doubt this Concert gained them any new fans, but it’s always great to see them doing stuff.

[READ: June 1, 2021] “Atlanta”

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

The title of Miranda July’s essay is not about a feature film, but about a short film that she made.

When she moved into a new apartment, she found a copy of the Thunderball soundtrack wedged in a drawer.

Great, she decided, this would be the soundtrack to her movie (which she hadn’t made yet).

Her movie was inspired by the 1996 summer Olympics (it was 1996). The movie was an interview with a 12 year old Olympic swimmer and her overbearing mother.  Miranda played both roles.  She set some scenes at the YMCA–but no swimming scenes because she didn’t swim. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CANDE Y PAULO-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #205 (May 5, 2021).

I chuckled to myself when I saw how skinny Cande Buasso was.  She plays the upright bass, one of the largest, shapeliest instruments.  And there’s Cande, rail thin, probably weighing half as much and  easily hidden behind this mammoth thing, but still playing deep effective notes.

Vocalist and upright bassist Cande Buasso and keyboardist Paulo Carrizo are from San Juan, Argentina, a very small town nestled by the Andes close to Chile. I like to imagine that the secluded location contributes to the magic and nuance of the very personal musical language the two have developed since forming the duo in 2017.

Things kick off with the magic turned up to 11 with Leonard Cohen’s “Treaty.”

The duo has a light jazzy feel, with Cande’s voice coming in delicately but passionately as she plays the gentle melody.  She’s yet another person who sings Leonard Cohen songs better than Cohen.  Paulo starts playing the piano while muting the strings with his left hand before opening up the piano fully.  Santiago Molina adds very tasteful drums.

The duo’s introduction to the world was a heartbreaking YouTube performance of “Barro Tal Vez” by the Argentine rocker and songwriter Luis Alberto Spinetta, and their performance of it here is no less haunting and captivating.

Paulo plays a kind of slinky organ sound as Cande sings in Spanish.   Midway through she starts bowing the bass while “ooohing,” which creates a haunting moment.  The beautiful theater in San Juan is way too bright for a torch song like this.

“Limite En Tu Amor,” a cover of Feist’s “Limit To Your Love,” is a preview of one of the tracks that will be included on their upcoming album of covers, produced by Grammy-winning producer Larry Klein.

This song is really fun to watch as Cande plays upright bass chords and then a slow, funky riff while Paulo plays some muted piano chords.  As the song starts properly, he switches to the organ while Cande plays a lead bass line.  Her voice sounds so sultry through this song.

And they seal the deal with “Tuyo,” a nod to one of the most unheralded singer-songwriters in Latin America, Rodrigo Amarante of Brazil. Tuyo translates to “yours” and it’s a fitting close to the briefest of introductions, but one strong enough to make Cande y Paulo one of our favorite discoveries of 2021.

This song feel the jazziest of the set.  You can practically smell the cigarettes as Cande sings and the bass rumbles while Paulo plays a lovely jazzy piano.  The wonderful difference between this and an old school jazz club is that Cande is not only singing she’s playing the bass too.

[READ: June 1, 2021] “Summer of ’42”

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

Of all the writers of these Summer Movie essays, Charles D’Ambrosio was the one I didn’t know.  But he made me laugh with his opening.

He says that he rarely went to the movies as a kid, but he did see the movie Summer of ’42 which looked back–way back–to the summer of 1942.  He says

I believe the movie is famous for a funny scene about buying condoms, but perhaps all summer movies feature some amusing scene with condoms I wouldn’t know.

He grew up in a family of seven where making plans took as much time as executing them and no plan pleased everybody.  It was exhausting enough to eat dinner together every night and to get to church on Sundays. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NENNYTiny Desk Meets AFROPUNK: #202/196 (May 1, 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.

With warm maroon box braids nearly sweeping the floor and glitter adorning her eyes, NENNY’s presence demands full attention before she even opens her mouth. Dressed in a flowy, all-white outfit accented with a pastel checker pattern and surrounded by a matching four-piece band, the 18-year-old Portuguese singer-songwriter and rapper appears otherworldly, almost heavenly, as she harmonizes with electric guitar and jumps across the room, dancing with her entire body. NENNY first appeared on heads’ radar in 2019 with her single “Sushi.” She’s continued to impress with several more singles and the release of her debut project, 2020’s Aura.

I love that her band is all dressed with the same fabric–pants on the guitarist, shirt on the bass player and sash on the drummer.  They play three songs.  I have no idea what she’s rapping about, but the flow in Portuguese is pretty great.

Jonatas gets some really great guitar sounds in the solo of “Bússola” and I love the deep bass that Peterson gets.

When she talks you can tell just how young she is.  She’s full of energy!

“Wave” opens with sampled acoustic guitar as Nenny sings this ballad.  I like that she switches from rapping to singing and her singing voice is really good.

Keyboardist Gui Salgueiro starts “Tequila” with an acoustic guitar sample and Ariel plays some cool percussive sounds while a spoken word (in English) interview plays.  When the song kicks in she’s rapping in Portuguese again and the electric guitar plays leads while the acoustic is still looping.

She really does seem to float around the room in this high energy Concert.

[READ: June 1, 2021] “Walkabout”

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

It’s interesting to me that Roger Agnell wrote about Quest for Fire, a small French Canadian production (with full nudity) and Jeffrey Eugenides writes about Walkabout a small Australian movie (with full nudity).

[This movie is permanently lodged in my own consciousness because I was living in Boston when it came out and it screened at the Brattle Theater for seemingly ever.  I often thought about seeing it, but never did].

Eugenides says that he saw it at his family’s yacht club (!).  His father and brother were sailing so he and his mother went to this movie that they knew nothing about.

He summarizes the little I know about it.  A father drives his children–a teenage daughter and young son–into the outback.  He then sets the car and himself on fire. (more…)

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