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Archive for the ‘Fonts’ Category

penumbraSOUNDTRACK: FIONA APPLE-The Idler Wheel is Wiser than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords will Serve You More than Ropes Will Ever Do (2012).

fionaFiona Apple released the album with the longest title a few years ago.  The title of this new album (also taken from a verse of Apple’s) doesn’t quite match in terms of length, but the music absolutely delivers in terms of quality.

When the Pawn… was full of big numbers–it was loud and brash and gorgeous.  The Idler Wheel is much more subdued and initially I didn’t think it was as exciting.  But this subdued music draws you in and gets you to really absorb everything that’s going on.  Musically, this album takes notes on the orchestration from her previous album Extraordinary Machine, but it scales  everything back  to what amounts to just Fiona’s voice (often multitracked) and minimal instrumentation.

Like “Every Single Night” which opens with beautiful bells/glockenspiel as Fiona sings.  “Daredevil” is almost all percussion and loud piano.  Indeed, the main sounds of the song is a quick shuffling followed by short piano chords.  It is so stark but her voice just sails through the open space beautifully.

The meandering piano of “Jonathan” is great–at turns minor and sad but then come chords and beauty.  More drums fill “Left Alone” as the opening twenty or so seconds are all drums followed by a menacing piano riff and the amusing lyric, “How can I ask anyone to love me when all I do is beg to be left alone” (and with each subsequent repeating of this chorus she sounds more and more exasperated).

“Periphery” is also mainly percussion.  But in this case, the percussion sounds like feet scraping on gravel–rhythmically of course.  This leads to a great vocal turn by Fiona, one that climaxes in a big roaring almost shouting section.  Speaking of roaring, just listen to the rawness that Fiona reaches on “Regret.”  It is spine tingling.

“Anything We Want” opens with more odd percussion, which I’m led to believe came from Fiona tapping on things on her desk–and it sounds like it–not instruments, but found objects.  Indeed, read the list of instruments that she and her compatriot used on the album: For “Feedy”: Artwork, Celeste, Composer, Dancer, Field Recording, Keyboard Bass, Loops, Percussion, Piano, Primary Artist, Producer, Stomping, Timpani, Vocals and for “Seedy”: Autoharp, Baritone, Bouzouki, Cora, Dancer, Drums, Field Recording, Guitar, Marimba, Percussion, Producer, Stomping.

The final song is just Fiona and tympani as she sings a line about hot knives and melting butter.  Then the piano and second voice (her sister) sings a fugue as the lines repeat over each other.  It’s a crazy, daring song to end an album with and it sounds like nothing else on the radio today.

I have never been disappointed by an album from Fiona.  Each album is different, taking new chances having wilder experimentation   And this one is up there with the best.  It’s easily one of the best records of 2012.

[READ: January 16, 2012] Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

I saw an ad for this book in The Believer (I believe  and I thought it looked great.  Sarah said she had already put it on hold.  And when it came in from the library, I grabbed it first.

This book is really great.  It’s a story full of intrigue and secret societies  it embraces old books and modern technology; it’s a romance and a puzzle.  And it’s all done in a very comic style.

What is surprising is how different the book is from what I initially expected.  True, I didn’t know anything really about the book before reading it, but the book opens with an overeducated and underemployed guy, Clay, getting a job in the titular bookstore.  But it’s no normal bookstore.  First, it’s open 24 hours a day (that’s 8 hour shifts for three clerks because they really don’t have many customers).  Second, it’s very narrow and very tall–Penumbra has a massive ladder that rolls along all of the shelves and there’s a chapter dedicated to using it properly.  Third, although there are books for sale in the front (an esoteric lot based mostly on Penumbra’s whims), the back section of books (the tall shelves called the Waybacklist) are not for sale–indeed, they are not even real books per se.

There is a small group of local readers (called the Unbroken Spine) who come to the store, give Clay a code, return a book and check out a new one.  Part of Clay’s job is to write down every detail he can about them each time they come in.  But he is not supposed to open any of these wayback books.  Those are really the only rules of the store.

Clay has two roommates, one of whom is Mat, a guy who works for Industrial Light and Magic as a miniaturist (he is building a miniature city in their living room called Matropolis).  He also has an old friend, Neel, with whom he played a Dungeons and Dragons like game called Robots and Warlocks.  Neel has since become a very wealthy programmer (his job is very funny).  Clay and Neel both loved the The Dragon-Song Chronicles, a trilogy of nerdiness by the author Clark Moffat (incidentally, later in the book a character is named Tabitha–this is now the SECOND book in which both of my children’s names are included and both of them are good guys.  Hooray!  So obviously I loved this book).  I love that later in the book, Clay is making an mp3 version of the books because they were only available on cassette!  (I was equally outraged with him).

When Clay’s friends visit the store, they are enchanted by it and can’t believe that he hasn’t looked at any of the books.  So, he does.  He breaks the rule and flips through a book.  But he can’t make much out of it as it has been encoded.

Soon after, a pretty young girl named Kat Potente enters the store (because of a Google ad that he placed trying to get people into the store–she fit every quirky demographic he could dream up).  Kat works for Google, recognizes that Clay is a kindred soul and, in the whirlwind way of people who know what they want, she sets up a date with him.  They hit it off immediately, especially when she sees that he’s working on a program to graph the checkouts of the books that the Unbroken Spine take out.  (Yup, there’s programming in the book–in Ruby).  The graph suddenly starts taking shape and Clay believes that a pattern is slowly emerging.  And when it does, it is like no pattern you have ever seen! (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK:  SLAYER-Live from Sonisphere 2011 (Palladia TV 2012).

Did I get into heavy metal because I loved typography or was it the other way around?  All metal bands love creating logos, and images that resonate with their music.  Nearly every metal band that I liked had a logo, easy to identify from a distance.  Perfect for marketing.The Metallica logo is pretty iconic, but the Slayer logo moves it up a step–crazy lettering with swords that almost make a pentagram.

When I was a young metalhead, Slayer was like forbidden fruit–so evil it was scary.  I love how this video dispels this image of the band.  Kerry King talking about “the kids,” and look how much Tom Araya is smiling through the whole set.  Never has anyone been happier singing the word “eviscerated.”

This show was during the Big 4 tour–Megadeth, Anthrax, Slayer and Metallica.  So Slayer performs a few of their more popular songs.  I actually don’t know how long their set was, but this thirty show must have contained about half of it.

And the band sounds really good–still playing really fast (Dave Lombardo on drums is a madman).  It also makes me laugh to think of Kerry King back in the early days having a leather bracelet with 4 inch ten-penny nails sticking out of it.  Now he’s just got a huge chain hanging from his belt (and a shaved, tattooed head and a very very long goatee).  Gary Holt from Exodus is replacing Jeff Hannemann for this tour because Jeff has Necrotizing fasciitis (which sounds like a Slayer song anyhow)

The Palladia show isn’t online, but there’s another show from this Big 4 Tour recorded in Chile that’s online.  And the interview with Tom Araya at around 11:30 is amazing,  Tom is such a nice, soft-spoken guy–and he was given the key to the city!  Incredible to hear him scream like that.  (And I see that Kerry has the nail bracelet on for the first song in this show too).

I’m also very pleased to see how many fans are wearing earplugs.  Not metal, but sensible.

[READ: September 10, 2012] Just My Type

A few months ago, Karen wrote posts about this book (links are below).  All I need to do was to read her first paragraph to know that I wanted to read this book.  I love typography.  I took a typography class at the School of Visual Arts and I have always been fascinated by logos and text.

This book is an awesome book for anyone who loves fonts but who doesn’t want anything too heavy.  There is some history of the various type creators, but for the most part this looks at type faces in the past and in popular culture.   Chapter 1, for instance, is called “We don’t serve your type” and is ll about the overused and much derided Comic Sans.

Karen wisely spread her review over five posts because there was so much in the book.  Looking at her review now, I had already forgotten these two things that she mentions: “the quandary Westminster Abbey was in when it was discovered the designer of the signage at the Stations of the Cross was an incestuous pedophile (among other things).  Or the story of the font that was drowned to keep it out of the wrong hands.”

Each chapter (about 8-10 pages) follows the adventure and misadventure of a font,  a series of fonts or the creator of said fonts.  In between chapters we got Fontbreaks, two or three pages about a specific font. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: COLIN STETSON-Those Who Didn’t Run (10″ vinyl) [CST084] (2011).

This 10″ vinyl contains two more of Stetson’s amazing bass saxophone solo monstrosities.  Each is over ten minutes.  And while ten minutes can be a bit much to take for one of these songs, the music is so powerful and so jaw dropping to listen to that, frankly he could play for days (and maybe he actually could) and I’d enjoy it.

The amusing thing about this 10″ is that when I played it on my record player, I didn’t know what speed to play it at.  And, since the whole platter is full of bass saxophone blasts, and all of the percussion is clacking from the saxophone, I honestly couldn’t tell what speed it was supposed  to be played at.  It wasn’t like a song with vocals or anything.  And the first song I played was the B Side “The end of your suffering ” which is played on a low alto sax–meaning it’s higher than his usual stuff, so the 33RPM actually sounded like it might be right!

After knowing the proper sound (you can stream the music here), it’s funny to hear the slow version–which just sounds meaner and angrier (especially around the 6 minuite mark of “Those Who Didn’t Run,” when he’s really hitting some crazy notes.  But I was so intrigued by the slow version that I went back and listened to both sides at the slow speed, just for fun.  In the dark.  By myself.

[READ:May 22, 2012] “About the Typefaces Not Used in This Edition”

This seemed like a perfect piece to put next to Rivka Galchen’s piece about the future of paper.  This is listed as a short story, and in a way it is, although not in any conventional sense.  This was published in 2002, long before Safran Foer’s book of cut up text, Tree of Codes was even conceived, so it’s obvious that he has been interested in type, in the way words play off of each other, in the way words appear on the page for quite some time.

This short piece (two pages) discusses the eight fonts that the editor chose not to use for publishing “this book.”  I don’t know if this references a specific book or not, although he does include character names and broad concepts from “the book”: Henry, Elena, an unsafe wooden bridge, the last word is “free,” and many times the words, “I love you.”

The typefaces are: (more…)

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