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Archive for the ‘Film & TV’ Category

SOUNDTRACKDakhaBrakha-GlobalFEST Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #133 (January 11, 2021).

DakhaBrakhaGlobalFEST is an annual event, held in New York City, in which bands from all over the world have an opportunity to showcase their music to an American audience.  I’ve never been, and it sounds a little exhausting, but it also sounds really fun.

The Tiny Desk is teaming up with globalFEST this year for a thrilling virtual music festival: Tiny Desk Meets globalFEST. The online fest includes four nights of concerts featuring 16 bands from all over the world. 

Given the pandemic’s challenges and the hardening of international borders, NPR Music and globalFEST is moving from the nightclub to your screen of choice and sharing this festival with the world. Each night, we’ll present four artists in intimate settings (often behind desks donning globes), and it’s all hosted by African superstar Angélique Kidjo, who performed at the inaugural edition of globalFEST in 2004.

The final band on the first night is DakhaBrakha.  I have wanted to see DakhaBrakha live for years–ever since I saw them ona Tiny Desk Concert.  It’s wonderful to see them again, this time with new songs.

Tonight marks DakhaBrakha’s return to globalFEST and Tiny Desk. The Ukranian band’s first globalFEST performance was in 2014, and their 2015 Tiny Desk concert remains a favorite. We’ve had them in our spaces, so it’s a real treat to see them in theirs, the Dakh Theater in Kiev. Coming together, their performance maintains the energy and joy that define their music, bouncing off each other musically and emotionally. DakhaBrakha aims to keep Ukraine’s musical and storytelling tradition alive by making it more accessible to a younger, international audience, a kind of self-proclaimed “ethno-chaos.” They craft stunning sonic worlds for traditional songs, reinventing their heritage with a keen ear for contemporary resonances.

I was initially disappointed that they only played two songs, but these are long complex and varied song.  And they are both great.

“Komora” is a new song.  It opens with Nina Garenetska singing while slowly bowing the cello. Keyboardist Iryna Kovalenko and drummer Olena Tsybulskajoin join in on backing vocals with great harmony and sweeping high notes.  Then Nina starts playing a bass line on the cello and accordion player Marko Halanevych and the other ladies seem to be having a conversation of sounds.  Iryna takes over on lead vocals.  Marko adds some accordion while Olena plays soft drums.  Nina is back to bowing then it returns to cello/bass line and lots of oohing from all the singers.

Then Marko sings a lead line and the women seem to be answering him.  The song starts getting faster and faster as they call to each other leading to a spectacular ending.

“Vynnaya ya” is from their latest album.  It opens with Iryna and Olena clappin a rhythm and Nina plucking the cello.  Marko sings lead and they sing back in a call and response.  Nina takes over on vocals to mostly drum and cello accompaniment.  Then Marko plays a “horn” solo using just his hands.  It sounds like a duck call or muted trumpet and is weird and wonderful.

Olena sings the next verse and then Iryna sings the final verse.  When her verse is done, Marko puts down the accordion, stands up and plays another “trumpet” solo with his hands.  Then the whole band kicks up the tempo to nearly double speed as they race to a wild conclusion.

I can’t wait to see them in person!

[READ: November 15, 2020] Starlite Memories

I had never heard of Dov Fedler.  The title of this book made me look at it twice and then I skimmed the back cover blurb.

Beloved political cartoonist Dov Fedler had the opportunity in the 1990s to make a lifelong dream come true: Directing a movie. …  A laugh-out loud story of pitfalls follows.

Turns out he was a political cartoonist for The Star for over 50 years.

Then I saw that Fedler is from South Africa.  I’d never read anything by anyone from South Africa before this, I don’t think.  So I was curious to see what a comedy from South Africa was like.

Somewhere along the line I completely missed that this was a memoir.

So I spent the first 2/3 of the book believing that this was based on something that really happened but that he was making up names and other details to protect the innocent.  Especially since in the beginning the note to the reader says writing is always about the story.

There are times when a writer may have to embellish, obfuscate, conflate and conjure to keep the thing alive.

Again, somehow I glossed right over that word memoir (actually I thought it was a the main character talking about writing a memoir or something).

None of that really changed the way I would have read this.  I had no idea who he was or any of thing the things he did, so it might as well have been fictional.  But I think it’s funnier that it really happened.

This memoir proved to be mostly funny with a lot of thoughtfulness thrown in for good measure.  It is written by a political cartoonist who has always loved movies.  He is a Jewish man in South Africa.  There are not very many Jewish families in South Africa, but there are enough to have a small cultural center there.

Each chapter of the memoir is titled after a film.  He then summarizes the film in a few words.  The chapter is tangentially tied to either what happens in that film or to the title of the film.

Dov explains that he was hired to directed the film Timer Joe Part 3.  This crazy film title is a real film–the third after two popular movies.  But this one is clearly made simply to ash in on the popularity of the other two.  The film is basically the brainchild of his producer Moe Mankowitz.  Moe says, “I make films for black audiences.  Black people like the same moveis we do, but they like them with black people.”  Timer Joe 1 and 2 were a success, so he wants Dov to write the script for 3.  What’s it about?  All he knows is that it’s a comedy. (more…)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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SOUNDTRACK: BORIS-Vein (2006/2013).

Boris continues to reissue their back catalog in streaming format.  Which is pretty amazing since so much of their work is so hard to find.  Possibly not great for collectors, but great for those of us who actually want to hear the music.

Vein is Boris’ thirteenth album.  Because they are Boris, the released two different albums under the same title in 2006.  The packaging was identical on both records and the only way to tell them apart was to check out the surface of the vinyl itself.

The “Hardcore version” had punk, hardcore, and drone.with vocals that are screamed rather than sung.  The  “Noise version” had drone and noise music as well as punk. This version of the album does not include any vocals.

In 2013, the band announced that the album would be released as a 2-CD set not as a reissue, but rather a re-arrangement of both albums combined.

Given all of this, it’s not even entirely clear to me what has been released her on bandcamp.  But it seems like the first two tracks (here labeled “v” and “e” are the hardcore version.  The third and fourth tracks “i” and “n” are a little harder to place.

“v” is 14 minutes long, broken up into several small pieces:

It starts with a wall of noise–static and low feedback swirling and manipulated until 4.01 when it segues into segues into ringing bells and effects that sound like a jet taking off and broken glass swirling and zipping around.   Then some drums and chords are introduced.   At 6:15, there’s a samples from the 1979 film Stalker, by Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky. A man says “И пусть посмеются над своими страстями” (Russian for “Let them laugh at their own passions”) followed by a blistering hardcore song  until 7:52.  After an abrupt halt comes the next screaming hardcore song which is more fuzz than chords with screams and feedback which at 9:06 segues into another super fast song which is distinguished from the others because of a riff where the chords go up and up higher and higher and faster as if they are going to explode, although it rumbles unto feedback at around 10:24 when a new tone of fuzzy nose feedback and a much slower introductory opens before before the pummeling hardcore resumes until 12:03.  This first song ends with a moment of silence and then a woman saying “unpleasant dreams” before a Wata fast high note solo is balanced by slow pummeling chords and drums and cymbals. After a minute or so, the hardcore returns this time with a solo all over the top of the song.  The song ends with a humming and what sounds like car keys jingling

“e” is over 15 minutes long and is one third hardcore punk and two thirds slow lengthy drone.  It starts with an Atsuo scream and hardcore drums. There’s a blistering hardcore song–fast riffage and screamed lyrics (which I assume are in Japanese).  Although the hardcore songs sound similar (and are unnamed) the riffs are distinctive enough to tell them apart.  Some backwards masked sounds come in at 1:05 and a similar riff at 1:15.  I have never seen them play this kind of set–it must be exhausting.  At 2.01 a loud bass comes in with a lot of cymbals and the song is buried under a blanket of distortion.  two minute song starts with.  At 3:04 a buzzsaw sound and a cool riff is coupled with some intense screaming.  At 4:45 it morphs into feedback that contains another sample from an Andrei Tarkovsky film, this time the 1986 film, The Sacrifice.  A man say “I hela mitt liv har jag väntat på det här. Hela mitt liv har varit en enda väntan på det här.” (Swedish for “All my life I’ve been waiting for this. My whole life has been a long wait for this.”)  The rest of the song feels like it might stay a lengthy drone, but at 5:46 after some cracks of the snare, a slow powerful Boris riff emerges.  But the riff dies away for some slow Wata soloing over droning chords.

Track 3 is probably the “noise version” (which is 17 minutes long) or the 2013 re-release (which is 17:25) but this track is 18:04.  Of course, if the “noise” version has no vocals, it can’t be this because it does have vocals.

It opens with a similar kind of noise that opens “v” but more staticky and with distant riffing going on.  At 1:58 a riff comes in.  The songs are like “v.”  A shorter version of the jet sounds are followed by some slow heavy chords.   At 3.22 there’s some chirping feedback that introduces the first hardcore song in “v.”  At 5.22 [#4 above] segues into a scream-filled hardcore song followed at 6:14 by the riff that goes higher and higher.  At 7:36, there’s slow thumping with noise and feedback (this might be new and not on “v”) then a sudden drop off of sound and near silence before the screeching feedback that starts at 8:39 with a blistering hardcore song that sounds unlike anything before. There’s heavy fast riffing with a pause and a big scream before resuming.  At 11:50, warping sounds and a thundering drum compete with a really fast riff which sounds like the first part of “e.”  At 13:05 song 2 from “e” begins–short, fast and loud.  Then at 13:51 comes track 4 from “e” (there’s no track 3) with the buzzsaw opening. At 15.21 there’s some backwards recording which eventually becomes the guitar solo that ended “v,” although this time it’s just under 3 minutes long.

Track 4 is “n.”  Perhaps it’s the “noise version” as there are no words.    It’s 17:59 and is a noisy composition of drone and feedback.  There’s some heavy chords and some quieter moments.  The high soaring notes seem to fit in very nicely with the sludgy bottom parts.  About half way through it turns into a fast, heavy hardcoreish track with a lot of drums, but buried under a wall of feedback and distortion.

[READ: November 12, 2020] The Little Buddhist Monk

The Little Buddhist Monk (written 2005) has been bundled with The Proof (written 1989) into one book.  Both stories were translated by Nick Caistor.

The Little Buddhist Monk is an absolutely bizarre, borderline stream of consciousness story.  It jumps from topic to topic like a fever dream and resolves itself in an even more unexpected way.

The story opens with us meeting the little monk who would very much like to leave Korea (where he was born and where he studied). But he has no money and no reasonable expectation for ever emigrating.  

Then one day a French photographer, Napoleon Chirac, and his wife Jacqueline Bloodymary (!) happened in his path.  They were on vacation and spoke French to each other.  The monk knew French and joined in the conversation.  They were delighted to meet a fellow French speaker in such a foreign land.  He imagined that they could be his ticket out of Korea.  So he decided to help them throughout the day.

They talk a lot about art.  Napoleon photographs empty rooms with a 360 degree camera and then splices it together as one image.  He has traveled the world filming places and he is looking to do a Korean monastery.  What luck, the monk can take them to a good one. (more…)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  SOUNDTRACK: PRIMUS-“The Devil Went Down to Georgia” (1996).

I’m not sure who the first band to cover this fantastic  Charlie Daniels Band song was, but Primus probably had the largest profile when they released it–even if they credited themselves as Festus Clamrod and The El Sobrante Twangers.

The song came with an excellent animated video.  Unfortunately, it was only ever available with the video.  It was eventually released on the vinyl reissue of Rhinoplasty, but you still can’t stream it on Spotify.

Which is a shame because it’s a real hoot.

Les Claypool excels at the story-song, so him narrating the story works perfectly (it’s just him and the drums for the verses).  Mark “Merv” haggard does a perfect young Johnny voice and Brian Kehoe is the great growly devil.

There’s some excellent fiddle work throughout the song (nothing deviating too much from the original,but played perfectly).  The violin is credited to Violina Mysteriosa (um thanks?).

It’s got some slide guitar (from Merv), but when the middle bridge come in it’s got lots of Primus-oddball guitar but the melody is spot on and Les’ voice has a delightful country twang to it.

When the band of demons joins in, the song goes bonkers with some weirdo guitar twanging from Ler and some noisy distorted bass from Les.  It sounds great, although I do miss the actual band of demons song which I’ve always thought totally kicked butt.

When Johnny starts playing, it’s all violin and Les stompin’ until the band joins in compete with a one-two bass and some slightly improv violin (in addition to the actual melody).

It’s a fun version of the song–not deviating too much from the original, but clearly Primus’ own.

[READ: November 3, 2020] The Big Break

I have really enjoyed everything that Mark Tatulli has written.  He’s a bit off my radar though, so I wasn’t aware of this full length graphic novel (or his previous one Short & Skinny).

This book is about two seventh grade boys, Andrew and Russ.  They have been friends for years and have done everything together.  Right now their project is to make a short film for The New Jersey Middle Grade Movie Viral Video Contest.

They have the perfect concept: The Jersey Devil!

Now, being from New Jersey, I found this concept to be wonderful.  I grew up hearing rumors about the Jersey Devil (even though I am hours from its haunting grounds).  Tatulli grew up in NJ as well, and he was obsessed with the devil (he lived closer to the PIne Barrens, I believe).

Their movie is a half-true / half-fictionalized account of their attempts to find the Jersey Devil.  It’s a kind of Blair Witch Project for middle schoolers.  Of course, they don’t have a Jersey Devil to film and their Play Doh monster is pretty lame.  But the rest of the film is really good.  They just need a good ending and they are on their way to becoming filmmakers–this will be their big break! (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: GOBLIN COCK-Necronomidonkeykongimicon (2016).

Goblin Cock is the hilariously inappropriate name of a heavy metal side project from Rob Crow of the band Pinback.  The album sounds very literally like a heavy cousin to Pinback with a similar (just much heavier) songwriting style.

The band members are: Lord Phallus (Rob Crow)-guitar and vocals; Lick Myheart-guitar; Tinnitus Island-bass; Mylar Grinninstein-drums.  (Probably pseudonyms).

Necronomidonkeykongimicon was the band’s first album in almost ten years after two albums in the early 2000s.  And Joyful Noise records had this to say about it:

Goblin Cock is a band from beyond time, beyond space, beyond your naive concept of dimension in METAL. Since before your pathetic “god” had supposedly “created” you and your kind, Lord Phallus was hunkered in a cybertimeship/fun-dungeon skating the layers of what was considered “true metal” in all societies and in all generations. Eventually His Majesty realized that he really didn’t care and launched a full-scale war against bland metal with an emphasis on ACTUALLY HAVING A GOOD TIME!

The album has 13 songs in 36 minutes–this is not an epic recording or anything.  But despite their brevity, these aren’t blistering punk songs either.  Rather, the songs work primarily in some of the heaviest metal styles (Slayer comes to mind) but also add some really alt-metal sounds (like Tool) in the bridges and choruses.

The first song, “Something Haunted” starts with a classic doom sound.  A distorted, vibrating series of notes–old school metal, including a heavy chugging riff. When he starts singing he sound a bit like Ozzy, but more like an alt-rock Ozzy (with a better voice).  When the bridge comes in, it feels more like Tool than dark metal.  The chorus soars to unexpected alt rock highs and somehow segues tightly back to that opening heavy riffage.  The song is three and a half minutes and is one of the longest songs on the album.

The second song, “Montrossor” starts so quickly, I initially thought it was still part of the first song.  It opens with fast double bass drums and equally fast riffage.  The bridge is a super fast followed by a slower melody (complete with crashing cymbals) that ends abruptly after two and a half minutes.  It ends abruptly and shifts gears into “Stewpot’s Package” which has that same old school style heavy deep opening riffs.  But again, it’s followed by a shift to more Tool-like sound for the bridge.  The chorus shifts gears and sounds almost like an XTC chorus.

“Youth Pastoral” is an instrumental with a practically heavy jazz riff.  The middle grooves all over the place as it shifts gears and style but fits perfectly together.

“Flume” opens with a slow menacing riff and Crow’s clipped singing until the much heavier chorus.  But, really, the most amazing thing about this song is that at the 1 minute mark, he sings the word “hey” for a full twenty-six seconds. It’s astonishing how long he holds that note.  The rest of the song is sung much more quietly, which seems fitting.

“Bothered” is heavy grooving with some excellent back and forth on the guitar parts. A shouting chorus is followed by a kind of guitar solo (more like an instrumental break than a solo proper).  A slow, heavy Soundgarden-esque riff opens “Your Watch.”  The chorus stays in that style, which never sounds like a Soundgarden song (the vocals are very different), but would fit comfortably on their playlist.  It’s followed by “The Undeer” a fast heavy chugging song that’s over in 90 seconds but only after a kind of mocking “la la la” vocal in the middle.

“Struth” opens with a slow drum fill followed by a n old school Black Sabbath-y riff.  The quietest part of the record occurs near the end of this song with a cool-sounding guitar melody (and effects) as the song slows to a pretty end.  But “The Dorse” resumes the heaviness with some intense double bass drum and pummelling guitars. This is another instrumental, but much heavier with some relentless pounding guitar and bass and an almost victorious guitar melody on top.

“World is Moving” is a quiet song that almost doesn’t fit on this record.  It opens with a complex guitar melody and some off-kilter time signatures.  The vocals are quiet and hushed for most of the song until it starts building up by the end.

“Island, Island” returns to the heaviness with a an intense riff and loud crashing drums.  It’s li e classic metal song with lots of drums taking the fore. There’s a catchy melodic middle that is bookended by ferociously heavy chugging guitars.  The middle of the song is about as heavy as this album gets with the thumping guitars and drums all in double time.

“Buck” ends the disc with the longest song–almost four minutes.  It’s slow and grooving and has a feeling of an 80’s sci fi film as the end adds a swirling synth sound.

Despite the band’s name, which will certainly turn off some, this album isn’t silly or overly vulgar.  It’s just some great songwriting in a bunch of heavier styles.

[READ: October 20, 2020] “Life Without Children”

Here’s the third story about COVID that I’ve read.  I’m not going to continue keeping track, but I am marvelling at how many have been published already.

This one is from a different perspective than I’m used to.

In it, Alan, an Irish man in his sixties, is in England on business.  His wife back home in Dublin tells him about all of the quarantining going on in Ireland.

Social distancing is a phrase that everyone understands. It’s like gender fluidity and sustainable development.  They’re using the words as if they’d been translated from Irish, in the air since before the English invaded.

Where he is in Newcastle, it’s like nothing has happened.  He is very careful about what he touches.  He cleans everything.  He envisions the particles floating in the air between the drunk men in the Hawaii-Five-0 shirts.   (more…)

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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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