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Archive for the ‘Film & TV’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: A Clockwork Orange soundtrack (1972).

I’ve had the CD of this soundtrack since the mid 1990s.  I recall playing it all the time.  I hadn’t listened to it in a while and it all came back as I listened again.

This CD is a collection of classical pieces, a few odds and ends and a number of pieces by Wendy Carlos.

I don’t intend to review the classical pieces which are familiar and sound great.  But the Wendy Carlos pieces deserve mention.

Title Music from A Clockwork Orange” (2:21) (From Henry Purcell’s Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary).  It is fascinating to realize that most of the carlos pieces on this soundtrack are actually classical compositions that she has arranged for the Moog (I assume she is playing the Moog on these).  This piece starts with swirling sounds which turn into a fast melody with drums that are probably low synth notes.  There’s a sprinkling of very odd sounds thrown in the mix which really give everything an unearthly feel.

“The Thieving Magpie (Abridged)” (5:57) [Rossini-Rome Opera House Orchestra]

Theme from A Clockwork Orange (Beethoviana)” (1:44) In the movie, the main character loves Beethoven.  So there are a number of pieces from Beethoven that Carlos has arranged here.  This one sounds amazing in this gentle piece with that otherworldly synthesizer music and of staccato notes and chords.

“Ninth Symphony, Second Movement (Abridged)” [Beethoven-Berlin Philharmonic] (3:48)

March from A Clockwork Orange (Ninth Symphony, Fourth Movement, Abridged)” [Beethoven] (7:00)  This is the most striking song on the disc with the synthesized “voices” singing the melody on top of a complex synthesizer pattern.  After two minutes it slows and changes styles dramatically becoming more of a march with whistles and chimes and again those haunting voices.  The end of the piece has a full choir of the haunting voices which sounds even more amazing.  I’m so curious how she did this.  Are there actual voices that she recorded and manipulated or are they generated from notes and manipulated to sound like voices?  It says articulations by Rachel Elkind [now Rachel Elkind-Tourre], so I guess she sang and was manipulated?

William Tell Overture (Abridged)” (1:17) [Rossini]  This piece opens with the familiar horns but as this incredibly fast paced track moves along you can hear the synth notes especially in the quieter middle part.  I wonder if those horns were real?

“Pomp and Circumstance March No. I” (4:28) [Elgar]

“Pomp and Circumstance March No. IV” (Abridged) (1:33) [Elgar]

Timesteps (Excerpt)” (4:13) This is the only fully original piece on the soundtrack.  It sounds like nothing else.  It is a gorgeous spooky composition of tinkling sounds, low gonglike sounds and celestial voices.  It grows somewhat menacing with lots of fast unique sounds skittering around a low throbbing bass.  She adds in sounds that seems sped up (which makes no sense really), but they do.  At one pint the two melodies seem to run counterpoint–low notes going in one direction, high notes in the other.

“Overture to the Sun” (rerecorded instrumental from Sound of Sunforest, 1969) (1:40).  I have always loved this middle-ages sounding song, but I had no idea where it came from.  Turns out it is by the band Sunforest and comes from their only album Sound of Sunforest, 1969.  They were an English psychedelic folk group.  You can play some of the album on YouTube (which sounds a lot like Jefferson Airplane).

“I Want to Marry a Lighthouse Keeper” (rerecorded song from Sound of Sunforest, 1969) (1:00).  This song is also on the Sunforest album, although it sounds very different here.  I’ve always assumed this was some kind of fifties song and had no idea that this is probably the only place most people know it from.  It’s a shame this album is so hard to find.

“William Tell Overture (Abridged)” (2:58) [Rossini-Rome Opera House Orchestra]

Suicide Scherzo (Ninth Symphony, Second Movement, Abridged)” (3:07) [Beethoven] The perfect use of Carlos’ bouncy synths sounds.  It’s amazing to hear her layering sounds as the song gets very big and seems to get away from her into an almost chaotic conclusion.

“Ninth Symphony, Fourth Movement (Abridged)” (1:34) [Beethoven-Berlin Philharmonic]

“Singin’ in the Rain” (2:36) [Gene Kelly].  This is a cute ending and seems to tie in to “Lighthouse Keeper” even though it clearly doesn’t.

This is a really fun soundtrack.  It is too bad that Carlos’s music is unavailable anywhere because it  is really quite eye-opening even fifty years later.

[READ: October 15, 2020] “The Well-Tempered Synthesizer”

This article is a book review of Wendy Carlos: A Biography by Amanda Sewell.

I don’t plan to read the book, but I found the summary to be quite interesting.

I’ve known of Wendy Carlos for many years, primarily from her work on A Clockwork Orange soundtrack.  I remember initially seeing that the music was recorded by Walter and/or Wendy Carlos and assuming that they were siblings or spouses.  It was certainly a confusing listing and once that, it turns out, was rather offensive to her.

So I know a little bit about her personal story, but this review added a lot of details to her life that I didn’t know.

Most importantly is that none of her music is available online pretty much anywhere.  Even when people post it, it is taken down quickly. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE DISTRICTS-The Districts (2014).

The Districts are a band from around Philly.  They are very popular there.  I saw them live with a crowd that knew every word to every song (I didn’t know them that well and felt a little out of place).

The band was in high school in Lititz, PA when they formed.  They independently released a couple of EPs and an album, Telephone in 2012 (while they were sophomores).

This EP was their first for a label (Fat Possum) and has three newly recorded songs from Telephone as well as two new songs.

“Rocking Chair” opens the EP.  There’s some Americana-ish guitar melodies and the some loping, rocking chords.  There’s also a couple of “whoos” and a full on “oooh” singalong part near the end. Rob Grote’s voice is old-in-a-young-body, with some nice gruffness.

“Lyla” is a slower, moodier piece with some really pretty guitar fills at the end of each verse.  There’s some loose, rambling dah dah dah’s near the end of the song that are very fitting to the feel of the record.

“Funeral Beds” starts out with quiet guitar and a harmonica!  There’s some slide guitar-sounding parts, giving it a desert feel.  The drums start as simply a thumping bass drum. At three and a half minutes, the drums amp up to include some martial snare beats.  And then the song takes off, rocking on to it’s five and a half minute conclusion.

“Long Distance” is my favorite track on the record.  It’s got a great melody, some clear guitars and jaunty rocking chord changes.  It’s got a big raucous sing along chorus.  After almost five minutes the song drops away for a simple thumping bass line and the whole band singing the chorus.

“Stay Open” ends the EP with a bit more raucousness–alternately slow and rocking controlled sloppiness.

It’s a great introduction.  They would follow this with a terrific full length the next year.

[READ: September 19, 2020] A Beginner’s Guide to Free Fall

This book came across my desk and it sounded really interesting.  I’d never heard of the author–this is his second novel–but there was something about the title and the cover that grabbed me.

And boy did I really enjoy this book.

The book starts four months from now, with the narrator trapped under a car that has crashed into the sea.  It’s an inauspicious beginning, but proves to be the logical conclusion for a man whose life went from amazing to horrific in one day.

Davis Winger is the man trapped.  He has a lovely wife and daughter.  He has a very cool job (he designs roller coasters) and he is well liked by everyone.  Even by his sister, Molly, with whom he has a great relationship.  Molly proves to be an excellent co-protagonist.  Indeed, her story proves to be more interesting than his. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ANGEL OLSEN-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #92 (October 7, 2020).

Angel Olsen is a favorite of many critics. I rather enjoyed her new album–but I think more for the sound of the production than the songs themselves.

I had the chance to see her recently but didn’t go and later heard the show was amazing.

This is a super-stripped down set (just her and her guitar on a balcony in North Carolina).

She opens with “Whole New Mess.”

The song is actually about addictions, defining her “home” amidst a life of touring that kept her on the road for large chunks of time. Much like this Tiny Desk performance, the original recording is just her stunning voice and guitar (minus the birds and the trees), recorded in a church-turned-studio a few years ago.

Up next is “Iota”

a song that wishes “that all the world could see something for what it is at the same time.”

“What It Is” is the only song I knew.  It was played on the radio a bunch and I grew to really like it.  This spare version is less interesting to me, but the melody is still lovely.

Angel leaves us with “Waving, Smiling,” a farewell song. She says goodbye to the sounds around her, the birds, the chainsaws, and leaves us with a theme of acceptance, bittersweet but without regret.

The whole set is gentle and lovely–it’s hard to believe she put on a dynamic and exciting live show.

[READ: October 1, 2020] Child Star

I am only mildly upset to learn that Box is not Box Brown’s real name (it seemed unlikely but amusing, nonetheless). But I am in no way upset about how great this book is.

In the author’s note, Brown says that he grew up watching TV in the 80s–he especially enjoyed the shows that had child actors in them.  He learned that the lives of child actors tend to follow a particular, tragic arc.

So for this “biography,” he created a child star, Owen Eugene, as an example of the kind of life.  If you grew up watching the same shows, you’ll recognize the children that he is drawing from.

You’ll recognize some of the notable episodes from shows.  Like the “very special episodes,” about drugs, or pedophilia or smoking or whatever; or the one where Nancy Reagan came on set; or when the younger, cuter kid came on to take over being the cute one.  And of course, the inevitable catch phrase.

The book is written like a Behind the Scenes kind of TV show.  There’s interviews with all kinds of people–his parents, his costars, washed up actors and ex-wives.

Owen Eugene had a hormone issue so he didn’t grow very tall–which meant he stayed adorable for a long time.  He was also a lot older than he looked.  So he could try out for roles and get them because he was the most talented 5 year old (because he was ten). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE GOOD ONES-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #87 (September 29, 2020).

I love when a music critic, like Bob Boilen, picks an album for his top ten lists that (I assume) no one else has heard.  So it’s no surprise to learn that 

In 2019, The Good Ones’ album RWANDA, you should be loved was one of my top 10 albums. They were to play a Tiny Desk concert in May of this year, but the world had other plans.

The blurb continues, “this is the tiniest of Tiny Desk (home) concerts, a single song.”  The song “Soccer (Summer 1988)” is simple, with a pretty guitar melody and wonderful harmonies.  But read what they’ve been through.

Adrien Kazigira and Janvier Havugimana know endless hardships. The night before this recording was made, a flood in Rwanda killed more than a dozen people and destroyed homes. Muddied water was more than waist high in Janvier’s one-room hut. That next morning, Grammy-winning producer Ian Brennan and photographer Marilena Umuhoza Delli showed up to record the duo; she had the camera and he handled the audio. And though Janvier had been up all night dealing with the mud, they all took a two-hour drive to Adrien’s hilltop farm. Janvier tapped out the rhythm with a key on a thermos; the jug was filled with milk — milk from a cow Adrien was able to purchase courtesy of a 2019 U.S. tour.

The performance is a song they’d just learned to play together: “Soccer (Summer 1988).” It’s a nostalgic tune of a favorite soccer team, Rayon Sports F.C., from the days before the genocide in Rwanda took too many lives nearly a quarter of a century ago. Support means a great deal to these people, and if you like what you hear, their Bandcamp page is a good way to help The Good Ones.

It’s worth checking out their page to hear what they sound like when their world hasn’t just been turned upside down.

[READ: September 24, 2020] The Space Merchants [an excerpt]

During the COVID Quarantine, venerable publisher Hingston & Olsen created, under the editorship of Rebecca Romney, a gorgeous box of 12 stories.  It has a die-cut opening to allow the top book’s central image to show through (each book’s center is different).  You can get a copy here.

This is a collection of science fiction stories written from 1836 to 1998.  Each story imagines the future–some further into the future than others.

As it says on the back of the box

Their future.  Our present.  From social reforms to climate change, video chat to the new face of fascism, Projections is a collection of 12 sci-fi stories that anticipated life in the present day.

About this story, Romney writes that it is one of her all time favorite books

Imagine a tongue-in-cheek spin on Mad Men, but set in a future when corporations have largely taken the place of governments.  …  This is mind-boggling in the number of predictions it gets right about the effects technological developments have had on capitalism over the past fifty years.

I also loved this story, or at least this excerpt, and will absolutely read the whole story to see what happens.

As it opens, we meet the narrator heading to work at Fowler Schocken Associates.  The company is a very successful advertising firm, headed by Fowler Schocken.  

As their meeting starts Fowler wonders aloud if they are getting soft.  The room is full of yes-men, but they are also correct.  They have not been getting soft.  They just secured the Coffiest account (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PUP-“Rot” (2020).

Pup has a new EP coming out in October.  It’s called This Place Sucks Ass. Ha.  This is the first single.

It’s three minutes of angry catchy punk (so a PUP song).  The verses are sung by the lead singer while the chorus is sung by the whole band–chanted and rocking.

The bridge changes things a little bit and adds some tension to this otherwise catchy but dark song.  It celebrates the paradoxes of life

The more I’m reckless The less I break
The more I care about money The less I make
The less I care about everything The better it goes
And the better it gets The more I lose control
And when I’ve lost it all I self-sabotage

Looks like PUP has been busy over the quarantine.

[READ: September 18, 2020] “Along the Frontage Road”

In this story, the narrator remembers going to pumpkin patches as kid around Halloween.  I love that his father is fastidious and hates to get his hands dirty–especially with food–but is also a surgeon and has expert precision as he operates on the pumpkin.

But he now lives in the city and instead of farm pumpkin patch, they go to an abandoned lot on the frontage road where every year people set up a booth with pumpkins and Halloween items. It slowly morphs into a Christmas store and then disappears again until next all.

The narrator is sad that his son, Nicky, seems to love this otherwise gloomy stretch of land.  His son was intrigued by the decorations–a rubber snake crawling through a skull’s eye socket.  The scarecrow at the entrance had a pumpkin for a head and wore a Friday the Thirteenth goalie mask

I forbid myself absolutely to consider the proposition that in the orchards of my youth it would neve have occurred to anyone to employ a serial killer motif as a means of selling Halloween pumpkins to children.

(more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: VOIVOD-The End of Domancy EP (2020).

Voivod has released a new EP for 2020.  The metal band were invited to play the 2019 Montreal Jazz Fest.

To do something special, guitarist Chewy created some orchestration for a song hey had not played live before.  This EP has the live version of the song as well as a newly recorded studio version.  There’s an extra live song from the Festival as well.

The newly recorded studio version of the song is now called The End Of Dormancy (Metal Section). It has  brass quintet comprising saxophone, trombone and trumpet.  It works quite well because of how cinematic their music (and especially their newest album The Wake) is.  I mean the military drum march in the middle of the song could come from any terrific sci-fi movie. The horns add a very interesting cinematic quality and do not detract from the heaviness of the original.  Even though the horns do a lot of the dramatic rising and falling parts there is still plenty of room for Chewy’s guitar soloing.  But that high note trumpet at the end is pretty spectacular.

The live version runs about a minute longer because even though Voivod is tight AF and very meticulous, they allow for an improvised saxophone solo.  The audience is pretty thrilled by it.  I love the way the band is quiet at the beginning of the solo and then builds in intensity to the end of the solo.  And that ending trumpet high note is even more impressive live.

The third song is a live version of The Unknown Knows, a fantastic song from Nothingface.  Voivod plays incredibly complicated an intricate music and the fact that they can pull it off live–and have it sound even better–is a testament to how great they are.  And also how great Chewy is as a replacement for Piggy.

[READ: September 10, 2020] Do You Mind If I Cancel?

I had no idea who Gary Janetti was before reading this book.  S. brought it home and thought I’d enjoy reading it.  With a title like that I thought it would be kind of funny.

Turns out that Gary Janetti is a TV writer for a few different comedies (although none that I watch).  And his writing is a lot like that of David Sedaris.  By that I mean he is lauded as being a hilarious writer.  But in fact, while some of his piece are funny, there is a lot of sadness and despair in some of these essays.  I mean, the last essay is about the many men who died of AIDS in the 80s.  To call this book “laugh-out-loud funny” is slightly off base.

I hate to lump Janetti in with Sedaris, because it’s not really fair.  They are both gay men, no longer young, with a great eye for details and a snarky attitude.  But the difference is in perspective.  Janetti is ten years younger (which isn’t that big of a deal, but given the time frame they are talking about, it was quite a change in gay culture).  More importantly, whereas Sedaris is from North Carolina, Janetti is from Long Island. So he has has much greater proximity to a big (gay) city.  His family also seems to be much less antagonistic with each other–so Janetti’s comedy doesn’t stem from familial wars.

Janetti lived much of his twenties in New York City as a single guy working in a fancy hotel where rich, fabulous people showed up regularly. He has many stories of Broadway, and disappointing encounters famous people and the like.   Amusingly he also has a lot of stories about how he watched a lot of TV–typically not the most exciting thing to write about–but his essays about this are quite funny.

There are eighteen essays in total. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TIWA SAVAGE-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #72 (August 31, 2020).

I don’t know who Tiwa Savage is.  Although apparently she is quite well- known.  Savage is

a veteran R&B and Afrobeat singer who began her career at age 11.  For her Tiny Desk (Home) Concert, Tiwa Savage returned, from London, to her birthplace of Lagos, Nigeria. She and The Alternative Sound band set up at the beautiful Jazzhole, a historic vinyl shop well-regarded among record collectors for the rarities within.

After Billie Eilish’s fake backdrop of the NPR office, this backdrop does have an NPR office feel, too.

With floor-to-ceiling shelves packed with books and albums as a backdrop, it certainly seems familiar to us, too — reminiscent of our performance cubicle at NPR HQ.

She plays four songs.  I really like Kenneth Ogueji’s bass sound throughout–very fluid and grooving.

On “Dangerous Love” she “speaks to matters of the heart.”  The song has a lot of high guitar notes from Phillip Akinkuande–fills and trills that flesh out the song nicely.  I also really like how a few times the song seems to smooth to a halt, just to pick up in unison again.

She says “I want you to vibe with us a little longer. I want to bring some Afrobeat to your screens.”

“Attention” has a nice, complex drum opening from Stanley Unogu and some very cool bass fills and runs.  There’s a lot of piano on this song, although I don’t know if it’s from Gospel Obi or Orowo Ubiene.

She sings the Reekado Banks single “Like” that she featured on.  This song is kind of odd as she keeps singing “Go go shorty it’s your birthday.”

She ends the set with “Koroba,” her newest single.  The song “blends her native Yoruba language with Nigerian Pidgin English, underpinned by a catchy, feel-good rhythm.”

This is the danceyest and most fun song of the set.

[READ: August 31, 2020] “Gunsmoke”

I really enjoyed this story.

It begins with the narrator, Alice, saying that her father has a gun and won’t come out of his house.

She received a call from a policeman telling her that her father has not made payments on his house recently and he is about to be evicted.  And yet there he sits with his gun, pointing it at the cops.

It turns out that this particular policeman, Bobby, is someone she slept with in high school. So they have a bit of a history.  She messes with him a bit (her dad has always been eccentric), but Bobby is serious.  He asks if she will get involved. She says she’ll call him.  But he has cut the phone lines.  Shit.

Alice’s father was a stunt man in the movies.  He worked mostly in Westerns in the fifties and sixties.  I love this insight into the world of the stunt man.  He could fall off of a horse, or a building or just about anything.  His only flaw was that he was quite short, but that didn’t stop him from getting work–make up and camera angles could make up the difference.

In one movie there was a battle between the Indians and the Army.  He dressed as a Comanche for one of the shots then changed into a lieutenant’s uniform for the other.  In the final product, “there was a scene of a heavily made up Indian pulling a soldier off a horse.  The Indian stabbed the soldier in the chest with a knife at close range.  The final two closeups of the victor and the vanquished revealed them both to be my father.

Alice also works in films, although when people ask her about it they are inevitably disappointed.  She does post-production voice over work.  She was in Titanic–she was the screams of some people drowning and the chewing in the eating room scenes.

She arrives at her father’s house.  The police are still there.  She knocks on the door and immediately has to tell her dad it’s her so he doesn’t shoot her.

She only visits her dad once a year and he looks a lot older each year–desert rats don’t age well.   She offers to help him pack up and move but he won’t put the gun down.  She’s not really afraid of him, just concerned.

Later she heads out to the store to get some decent food for dinner (he only has soup).  She sees Bobby in the store and they catch up.  He says he’s on his night off from his wife–she says they are in rut so they need to bring new experiences to the marriage. He is supposed to go to the movies and come home and talk about it with her.

So Alice and Bobby go to the movies together.  They watch a movie in which she is the laughter of a girl on screen and then later: “That’s my kissing sound…tongue and everything.”  When he shouts to the crowd that she is the kisser in the movie, she covers his mouth with her hand.  When he licks her skin, they of course end up making out in his car.

The next morning, Alice’s father has to make a decision.  When the police tell him to vacate, he cocks his gun.  Is this a stunt?

I really enjoyed that there were so many great details in this story–some of them didn’t really pertain to the plot but which fleshed out the story really nicely.

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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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51196238._SX318_SY475_SOUNDTRACK: LYRIC JONES-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #57 (July 29, 2020).

download (69)Lyric Jones is a delight.  A smart, thoughtful woman who not only raps really well, she has a great singing voice too.

She talks A LOT between songs.  She plays 3 songs in 21 minutes.  She talks a lot about her hustling–driving for Uber and Lyft as well as all of the running around one has to do to be a musician.

Lyric makes it abundantly clear that her hustle is nonstop – writing, rapping, singing, drumming, engineering, and grinding it out to make Gas Money (the title of her latest album).  This quintuple threat, trained in the Berklee College of Music’s City Music program, recorded this Tiny Desk (home) concert from her studio in Los Angeles in May.

“All Mine” opens the song and I love how she plays her electronics while keeping her flow fresh.

My favorite song is “Adulting.”  I love watching her create the song a capella–making the beats and the music looping her voice and manipulating it with electronics.

 Her multi-layered prowess is present on “Adulting” a song about the evolutionary growth that happens in your late 20s and early 30s. Lyric uses a TC Helicon vocal processor to create percussive beats, looping her voice as a backdrop and packing a punch with vocal harmonies and ad libs.

After the song she jokes about how in the song she is complaining about wanting to stay home all day and not get up and do shit.  Be careful what you wish for.

Before the last song she has two important things.  First, how you can support Lyric Jones (ha).  But she takes the virus seriously, encouraging everyone to be kind to ourselves and patient with ourselves. It’s important to feed ourselves mentally, creatively and to literally feed ourselves.

In grappling with the pandemic, Lyric expresses the deep importance of this moment: “Whatever we put out in this time, in this era is a bookmark in history. Especially as musicians. … For me, my personal testament, I want to be intentional. … My children’s children are gonna know about this time. And I want to know that I impacted it with intentional music, intentional thoughts, insights and perspectives.”

She ends with “Lush Lux Life,” her “affirmation song” about “what I should be doing–living luxuriously.”  I really like this song for the excellent retro-sounding music behind the song.  I’m really curious if the jam at the end of the song is new or a sample from an interesting rocking jazzy solo.  Her producer Nameless has some great skill.

[READ: July 29, 2020] Thinking Inside the Box

A couple of years ago I read Cluetopia, a history of the crossword puzzle written from a British writer.  Now here’s a book about crossword puzzles written from an American writer.

Is the country significant?  In some ways, very much so.  Because Americans and Britons have very different styles of crossword.  Americans’ puzzles are full of puns and definitions as well as facts and information.  British crosswords are known as cryptics and are mostly full of wordplay–you don’t need external information to solve the puzzles, exactly.  Most of the time the clue contains all you need to find the answer (sometimes it even contains the answer itself) but they are quite challenging.

Other than that, the origin of the author is not that significant, because the origins of the crossword are the same regardless where you write from.  Arthur Wynne was a Liverpudlian lad who moved to Pittsburgh and then to New York City.  He worked on the New York World which was eventually run by Joseph Pulitzer.  (It’s ironic that awards of excellence are in his name since he ran the World full of pulpy news and yellow journalism).

In 1913, Wynne was put in charge of the FUN section.  He needed to fill space so he came up with a Word-Cross Puzzle.  It was shaped like a diamond and the three and four letter answers ran around a center hole.  He based it on similar word puzzles he had seen as a child in England.  The puzzle became a weekly feature.  Eventually a typo changed it to crossword.  The puzzles weren’t especially challenging because they were meant to be fun.

Wynne wanted to patent the crossword but the paper wouldn’t pay for the expense. (more…)

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