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Archive for the ‘Essays’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: LUCINDA WILLIAMS-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #55 (July 27, 2020).

I don’t really like Lucinda Williams.  Her voice really bugs me. I don’t know if she always sang like this but this sort of drunken drawl just hurts my head.

I know that she’s a legend and everyone loves her, but I have a hard time getting through her songs.  And that’s a shame because her lyrics are great.  Well, maybe not her lyrics, but her sentiments.

Because the lyrics to “Bad News Blues” are not great.  It’s a pretty standard blues song in which she lists all of the bad news that she has around her.

Bad news on my left
Bad news on my right
Bad news in the morning
Bad news at night

The only thing interesting about this song really is the bluesy lead guitar work from Stuart Mathis.  Otherwise, it’s a blues song.

“Big Black Train” is a slower bluesy song about not wanting to get on board the train that’s barreling towards us.  Wow, her singing the chorus really hurts my ears.

“You Can’t Rule Me” is on the radio a lot and I’ve been turning it off when it comes on.  It’s obviously a song of empowerment but I can’t stand the drawl of her voice.  Although once again Stuart’s lead is pretty tasty.  In fact the guitar work from both of them is great throughout.

The set ends with “Man Without A Soul” and this is the song that made me think more highly of her.  Musically the song isn’t much.  In fact, it sounds pretty close to “Bog Black Train” in the chorus.  But its’ the words that are impactful.

It’s pretty clear who this song is about:

You’re a man without truth
A man of greed, a man of hate
A man of envy and doubt
You’re a man without a soul
All the money in the world
Will never fill that hole
You’re a man bought and sold
You’re a man without a soul
You bring nothing good to this world
Beyond a web of cheating and stealing
You hide behind your wall of lies
But it’s coming down
Yeah, it’s coming down
You’re a man without shame
Without dignity and grace
No way to save face
You’re a man without a soul

She says she wrote this to shake people up and wake people up.  I don’t know if it will do either, but I hope some people’s minds are changed by it.

[READ: July 31, 2020] “The Lottery”

This issue of the New Yorker is an Archival Issue.  It’s weird to me that at a time of unprecedented everything, the magazine would choose to have virtually no new content.

Except that the articles in it are strangely timely.

Calvin Trillin (he was writing in 1964?) was on a flight that Martin Luther King, Jr. was on and he overheard a white preppy-looking post-college boy who disagreed with King (believing that King was advocating violence and was therefore unChristian).  It was a remarkably peaceful conversation even if the boy never saw King’s point of view.

The second article is about Black Lives Matter with the subtitle “A new kind of movement found its moment.” What will its future be?”  But this article was written in 2016 and it ends “Black Lives Matter may never have more influence than it has now.”  How wrong that was?

And then there is the Shirley Jackson story, originally written in 1948.

I read this story in sixth or seventh grade and it has stuck with me all of these years.  I remember being rather blown away by it in school, thinking it was one thing and then realizing it was something else entirely.

I have not read it since. I felt that I didn’t really have to read it because it stuck with me so much.  But I’m glad I did re-read it, because although some details were still there, I had forgotten some pretty intense stuff.

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

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

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

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

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

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

These later pieces are all about one page long.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These later pieces are all about one page long.

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

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

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

bugsThis is another single from Los Bitchos.

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

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

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

[READ: July 14, 2020] “Single-Handed”

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

These later pieces are all about one page long.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[READ: July 14, 2020] “My Madeleine”

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

These later pieces are all about one page long.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The album has two songs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[READ: June 9, 2020] “Brooklyn”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This release is quite fetching.

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

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

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

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

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june8SOUNDTRACK: KAWABATA MAKOTO [河端一]–Sunday Morning (1978-83).

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

This is Kawabata’s first musique concrète works. He played 2 cassette decks, a half-broken radio cassette-corder, tapes of field recordings and something else and a synthesizer.

This album has been reissued on CD-R as a part of “Kawabata Makoto’s Early Works 1978-1983 : Learning From The Past – R.E.P. Reissue Series vol.1” (11CD-Rs + 1 CD) box set in 2012.

There are two parts.  Part 1 is 24 min.  It sounds like short wave radio with lots of static. It’s a very mechanical, earthy sound which by the middle feels like a vacuum cleaner.  This one was particularly headache inducing.

Part 2 is 21 minutes long and feels a bit more musical with tape sounds and synthesizers but all under a gauze of hiss and static. There are musical notes –ringing harp-like notes buried beneath the fuzz–and echoing vocals.  At around 18 minutes the piece slows down with thumping “drums” that slow the pace.

These first two releases are very abstract.

[READ: June 9, 2020] “Breaking Stride”

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

This piece is fascinating to me because of two things.  The first is that Matthew Klam and his oldest friend managed to stay reasonably good friends for all of their lives.   And second because both of them went on to be creative.

In 1978 Matthew and David were in eighth grade.  They are not particularly popular but they both love Steve martin’s Let’s Get Small (this is right out of Freaks and Geeks). (more…)

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june8SOUNDTRACK: KAWABATA MAKOTO [河端一]–Undead Underdrive Electrique (2019).

a3667527135_16Recently, Kawabata Makoto [河端一], mastermind behind Acid Mothers Temple, revealed a new bandcamp site for some newer solo recordings.

These are mostly abstract and meandering.  On this release he uses synthesizer and  electric guitar (and I hear a theremin).

Both of these tracks are similar although there is a clear distinction of style.

Part 1 is 22:52.  It is primarily the theremin sounds and sounds a lot like the middle siren-sounding section of Pink Floyd’s “Echoes,” but for twenty minutes.

Part 2 is 23 minutes.  It stars with a throbbing helicopter sounding pulse.  There’s lots of static and squelchy sounds.  Around 8 minutes in, it sounds vaguely outer-space like.  At 14 minutes it turns mechanical and like its breaking up and then the high siren returns.

[READ: June 9, 2020] “Praying”

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

Miranda July writes unusual pieces.  They don’t always make sense to me, but they’;re usually fun to read.  I often feel like Miranda is on a whole different wavelength than I am.

So, as this essay starts she talks bout going to the library and using her own method for finding a book.

She overhears a conversation and picks out a prominent word.  She searched for that word in the catalog and then pick the first author who shared a first or last name with someone she knew.  She would either take out that book or open it and pick out a word at random and resume the search until something grabbed her.  (more…)

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