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Archive for the ‘Essays’ Category

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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SOUNDTRACK: PHOEBE BRIDGERS WORLD TOUR (May 26-June 4, 2010).

Phoebe Bridgers is a fascinating person.  She sings the most delicate songs.  Her voice is soft and almost inaudible. Her music is simple but pretty.  And her lyrics are (often) devastatingly powerful.

And yet she is really quite funny.  Both in interviews and in her visual representation of herself.

Her logo when I saw her was a fascinating faux death metal style of her name.  And now with this world tour, you can see in the poster all of the metal bands referenced in the logos. (There’s Slayer in the kitchen for instance).

And then there’s the basic joke of this world tour.  No one can go anywhere, so she is travelling her world: kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom (second concert by popular demand??)

The first show last night raised money for Downtown Women’s Center.

After some introductory talking and even a magic show (!) from Ethan, her producer, she played five songs.  Midway through she agrees that the set was a bit of a downer, especially opening with these two sad songs.

“Scott Street”
“Funeral”

Then it was time for two new songs (and an electric guitar).

“Moon Song”
“I See You”

Before coming to the end, she delayed, because she was having so much fun (and raising so much money).  So she showed us around her kitchen and pitched the kind of guitar she was playing, the kind of capo (quite expensive!), and her Target-purchased kitchen ware.  

She ended the set with a boygenius song, “Me and My Dog ” dedicated to her dog Max who died at the age of 17 last year.

The first night of her tour was a success. Tonight is night two, from the bathroom.

You’ll laugh, you’ll cry.  You can watch it here.

[READ: May 27, 2020] “California Ghosts”

I don’t usually read profiles of artists I like.  But every once in a while, one strikes me as interesting.

Phoebe Bridgers is a pretty fascinating character (see the above part for some details).  So I though this might be an interesting profile.  And it was.

Bridgers was brought up in Laurel Canyon and came of age listening to emo.  I love that the writer has to define emo for the New Yorker crowd, “a sub-genre of punk focused on disclosure and catharsis.”  That’s probably the most concise definition of emo I have read.

She writes that Conor Oberst (of Bright Eyes) is one of emo’s most beloved practitioners.  Phoebe grew up listening to him and then met him in 2016.  He says when he first heard her he felt like he was reuniting with an old friend.  In 2018 they made Better Oblivion Community Center together.

At Carnegie Hall (where she wore a tea-length black dress and high to Doc Martens), she sang a song with Matt Berninger of The National. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MILCK-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #19 (May 7, 2020).

I only know of MILCK from NPR. They talked about her “movement-defining anthem ‘Quiet'” which she played in 2017 at the Women’s March.  It was powerful and very moving.

Aside from that song, though, I hadn’t heard anything else from her.

And now, here she is at home singing “her most recent singles, ‘Gold’ and ‘If I Ruled The World.’  She also plays an unreleased song, “Double Sided” which she says is her most personal yet.

Many artists are sincere, but MILCK might be the most sincere performer I’ve ever seen.  That sincerity comes across as she speaks between songs, but also in her lyrics.  I love this couplet from “Gold.”

Don’t mistake my confidence for arrogance / don’t mistake my self-respect for disrespect.

Then she moves on to the brand new song

For this deeply moving Tiny Desk (home) set, recorded at her home in Los Angeles, MILCK performs those two recent singles, along with an unreleased track called “Double Sided,” a gorgeous tearjerker about the necessity of loving one another regardless of our faults and weaknesses. MILCK’s songs of empowerment, unity and understanding have never resonated more.

“Double Sided” is a powerful song and she is definitely moved by the end.

For the final song, “If I Ruled The World” she introduces it by quoting Gloria Steinem.

Gloria Steinem said that dreaming is a form of planning and this song is dreaming and imagining what our world could look like.

The song a capella for the first verses.  This is significant because so far every song of hers that I’ve heard has been about the lyrics.  But it’s here that you fully realize what a great voice she has.

Having said that, the lyrics are pretty great, too.  As I said, they are very sincere.  But it’s wonderful that there are serious ideas coupled with more lighthearted ones

Jenny wouldn’t hate her figure when she’s small, or when she’s bigger
She’d be kissin’ on the mirror, and the WiFi would be quicker
Everybody would recycle, fewer cars, and more bicycles
No more fighting for survival, you would hear this song on vinyl

You’d see a doctor if you’re sick, Mary, don’t you worry ’bout it
‘Cause there’d be no crazy bill, no more thousand dollar pills

All the sexist, racist, bandits would be sent off for rehabbin’
And instead of feeding fear, we’d be feeding half the planet, damn it

If I ruled, it would be less about me, more about you

As the blurb says,

I can always count on MILCK for a good cry. … the Los Angeles-based singer digs into and bares the ugliest sides of human nature, but leaves you feeling nothing but gratitude and awe at just how beautiful life really is.

If you’re not moved by these songs, you’re not really listening.

[READ: May 8, 2020] “Why Birds Matter”

At one point I subscribed to the print edition of National Geographic.  There are so many magazines that I like but which I never have enough time to give attention to.  National Geographic was one of them.  Each issue is packed with amazing pictures and fascinating stories that go along with them.  And every once in a while I would see a dozen or so yellow spines staring at me, accusingly.

I remember when this issue came in and there was a cover story from Jonathan Franzen, which I was excited to read.  I didn’t have the time to read it when it came in.  Later, when I remembered that I wanted to read this cover story I honestly couldn’t remember what magazine it came from.  I was sure it as Harper’s, but searches proved otherwise.

Finally I did a search on his articles and this came up and that was it!

I found an online copy of the magazine through my library (it has since been published in a book) and finally got around to reading it.  So imagine my surprise when it was actually quite short.  There’s an accompanying (amazing) photo essay that makes the entire “article” some twenty pages.  But his text is barely five picture-heavy pages.

Nevertheless, he makes so many point better than I could and better than I could even try to summarize that I’m quoting extensively because I think it’s that important.

(more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE LUMINEERS-Tiny Desk Concert #966 (April 6, 2020).

When The Lumineers first came on the scene they were the band that sounded like Mumford and Sons.  It now seems likely that The Lumineers are more popular than Mumford.

I’ve known them since “Hey Ho” but I’ve never seen them I guess because sinegr Wesley Schultz doesn’t look anything like I thought he would (I’m not sure what I thought, but that’s not it).

Much of The Lumineers’ Tiny Desk comes from the band’s third LP, III, which tells a story of addiction in three acts.  They began with gut-wrenching renditions of “Gloria” and “Leader Of The Landslide.”

I’ve heard “Gloria” a million times, but it was nice to see it live.  I especially enjoyed  when violinist Lauren Jacobson joined in on the high notes of the piano while Stelth Ulvang played the low parts.  Byron Isaacs plays some interesting bass lines (That I’ve never noticed before) and adds nice backing vocals.

“Leader of the Landslide” has a very sad introductory tale.  Stelth Ulvang switches to accordion.  It is “accompanied by a cassette recording of crickets made on iPhones and dubbed to play on a boombox.”  It’s a quiet song, unlike what I think of them as playing.

The third track is also from III, but was an assignment from director M. Night Shyamalan. He tasked Schultz and his suspender-clad writing partner, Jeremiah Fraites, with composing a song for the end credits of a film. “Jer and I worked really hard on that, and then he didn’t need it,” Schultz confessed. The results are the stark and haunting “April” and “Salt And The Sea,”which strikes a different chord than any other song they’ve written.

“April (instrumental)” is a one-minute instrumental that segues into “Salt And The Sea” Drummer Jeremiah Fraites plays piano while percussionist Brandon Miller switches to drums. but he’s mostly playing cool atmospheric percussion (my new favorite thing of scraping drumsticks on cymbals).

It wouldn’t be a Lumineers show without a foot-stompin’ sing-along to end the set, which came with their crowd-pleasing hit “Stubborn Love”. Stelth Ulvang demonstrated a level of barefoot acrobatics unrivaled at the desk thus far, not an easy feat (or should I say, feet).

I never knew the name of “Stubborn Love” but I’ve certainly wanted to “Hey oh, oh oh oh) along with it.  And yes, Ulvang jumps on Bob’s desk to get everyone to sing along–I hope he didn’t step on anything (and that his feet were clean).

I’ve never thought about seeing them live, but I’ll bet their show would be a lot of fun. However, since they are now playing to 20,000 people, I can probably give that a miss.

[READ: April 25, 2020] “The Bird Angle”

Nell Zink and Jonathan Franzen are intricately linked.  As she writes in this essay

All I wanted when I first wrote to Jonathan Franzen–a birder who moonlights as a journalist–in 2011 was some attention for a bird-obsessed NGO.  With his help I debuted as a novelist five years ago at age fifty.

Her fifth book comes out this year.  She now has some money and wondered what to do with it.  Franzen recommended birding in Peru.

So this is the first non-fiction piece of hers that I have read.  It’s also the first piece about birds (aside from her novel the The Wallcreeper which has a bird prominently in it).

She was going to Cuzco, Peru for thee days.  First she toured churches (seventeenth century Jesuits made Christ look especially gruesome).  The next morning she hiked to Sacsayhuamán, an Incan ruin made of exceptionally large rocks.

She imagined Peru would feel like a hot night in New York when the A/C broke.  But she only got two mosquito bites the whole time she was there (both on her ass from peeing outside). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKKING PRINCESS-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #6 (April 8, 2020).

I’ve heard a lot of buzz around King Princess–that she’s fun and puts on a wild show.

This home Tiny Desk is not wild in any way.

“Welcome to the quarantine shed!” King Princess exclaims. She’s in jogging pants and sitting on a fluffy white chair, with two guitars, an amp and a tiny keyboard at her side. “I’m in Hawaii and brought as much gear in the carry-on of my plane ride as possible.”

She calls herself KP, which I rather like.  These songs are really quiet. She plays “the three songs from her late 2019 album, Cheap Queen, in ways I never would have imagined.”

“Isabel’s Moment” is played on a quiet keyboard.  She says it’s an homage to people experiencing quarantine thirstiness–texting their exes and ex friends and everyone.  It’s my least favorite of the three because I don’t like the keyboard sound she chose.  But her voice is excellent.

“Prophet” is played on one of her guitars (with lots of echo and slightly out of tune she admits).  The chorus turns surprisingly bright. She says it’s about the entertainment business and it is now more relevant than ever.  We’re all out of jobs right now.

She says this is back to making music in my room, trying to find that creative spark we had as children, when I could sit in my room and make things for hours.

“Homegirl” is also on that guitar and sounds really pretty, too.  I really like her singing voice quite a lot. It holds up well in this quiet setting–so if Bob says that it’s very different from what he’s used to, I’m very curious about what her live show is like.

But I really don’t like her speaking voice, I must admit.

[READ: February 2020] Burning Bridges to Light the Way

Evidently I asked S. for a book by David Thorne a few years ago.  I don’t know what book it was, I don’t recognize any of his titles and I didn’t even recognize his name when I saw this book.  She didn’t get me the book then, but she did get me one this past Christmas.

Turns out that David Thorne is an Australian smart ass.

As the foreword from Peter Goers puts it, this book is full of “barely coherent rants about friends, family, and colleagues.”  He continues,

David isn’t a dreadful human being all the time.  He has to sleep and I know he cares a lot about squirrels.  There are parts of this book that even hint at a certain degree of empathy for other human beings.  Some human beings, not all of them, maybe three.

I’m not sure who Peter Goers is, but his introduction is very funny.  Don’t skip it:

I once asked David if he’s autistic and he replied, “It’s pronounced artistic and no, not really, I can draw a cat though.”  I assume he was joking but it’s hard to tell with David.

In the first essay, David says that every year when he releases a new book friends and associates say that they are going to sue him if he says anything derogatory about them in his book.  But he’s not worried. Nobody he knows has enough money to hire a lawyer. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BILL RIEFLIN (September 29, 1960 – March 24, 2020).

Bill Rieflin is a musician that I’ve known of for as long as I can remember.

He played with the Revolting Cocks and then, how I knew him best, as the drummer for Ministry.  I feel like his name appeared in dozens of places on the industrial scene.  He helped to create Pigface and even played with KMFDM (as a drummer and keyboardist).  He also played on the Lard albums and drummed with Nine Inch Nails and Swans.

With all of that industrial background it came as something of a surprise to hear that he was going to replace Bill Berry (as a hired drummer, not a band member) in R.E.M. (in live shows and on their last couple of albums).

He even played drums on Taylor Swift’s album Red (which is amusing given his later King Crimson connection).

He had been friendly with Robert Fripp since at least 1999.  Fripp played on Rieflin’s solo album Birth of a Giant and had worked with him in various projects through the years.  I didn’t know about that Fripp connection, so when I found out that he was going to be one of the three drummers in the 2014 King Crimson tour, I was really surprised.

I was also really impressed at his drumming and am now really happy to have seen him play.  When Crimson toured again in July of 2017, Rieflin had taken a sabbatical but was now back.  But since they had replaced him while he was away, he was now playing keyboards (which meant that Crimson now had eight members on stage).  When I saw them again in November 2017, Rieflin was once again on sabbatical.

I assumed it was for health reasons (why else do musicians take sabbaticals), but his cancer was kept under wraps. (He’d evidently been fighting it since 2013).

So at least I was fortunate enough to see him play twice before he died.

Here’s the second drummer that I know of to die of cancer in 2020.  Even while Coronavirus is getting the front page, cancer still does its dirty work.

[READ: December 2019] “Who We Are”

The December 2019 issue of the West End Phoenix focused on Indigenous People.  Most of the writers were Indigenous and the news stories shone a light on Indigenous issues.  Much of the presence of Indigenous peoples is seen through their art–whether through beads, paint or sculpture, the images are often quite striking.  The issue even included a “colour me” page with a striking image from Taylor Cameron, a 23-year-old Anishinaabe artist from Saugeen First Nation (I can’t find an image online).

The issue also featured two full page graphic short stories.

The first features very clean illustrations from Scott B. Henderson.  The lines are very crisp and yet the art is quite minimal, achieving a lot with very little.

The story is a true story. (more…)

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