Archive for the ‘Hollow Earth’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: PALBERTA-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #210 (May 18, 2021).

Palberta has a great name (even if they are not from Alberta).  They are an underground Philly band.  I saw them a few years ago, and this attitude of relaxed yet frenetic fun was evident then as well.

While many of us have gotten better at using technology to feel close to our friends and collaborators over the past year, there’s still no replacement for being in the same room as someone who you swear can read your mind. That’s what it feels like to watch punk band Palberta, whose music makes magic out of repeated phrases sung in tight harmony and charmingly zany pop hooks. For its Tiny Desk (home) concert, shot on a MiniDV and a Hi8, the band crams into Nina’s Philly basement for a set that’s a testament to the group’s tight-knit collaboration and playful exuberance.

The band plays six songs in fifteen minutes (including the time it takes to switch instruments).  Five songs are off of their new album Palberta5000.

The guitar-bass-drums trio is made up of Ani Ivry-Block, Nina Ryser and Lily Konigsberg, and each member sings and plays each instrument. Here, they trade places every couple of songs.  The songs aren’t over-complicated but still manage to surprise at every turn – a true Palberta specialty.

The “frenzied opener” “Eggs n’ Bac'” has a wild instrumental opening which jumps into a faster indie punk sound for most of the song.  All squeezed into less than 2 minutes.  For this song Nina is on bass, Lily on guitar and Ani on drums.  Their sound reminds me of early Dead Milkmen.  Is this a Philly thing?

For “No Way” Nina stays on bass, Lily switches to drums and Ani takes the guitar.  Nina sings lead with the other two giving great tight harmonies.  For these songs the bass lays down the main melody and the guitars play a lot of single note melodies that run counter to the bass.

For the “queasy-yet-sentimental” “The Cow” it’s the same lineup but Lily sings lead on the first verse and Ani sings leads on the second verse.  The staccato guitar style on this song is so unusual.

For the “anxious and melodic” “Big Bad Want” Lily stays on drums and sings lead, Ani switches to bass and Nina gets the guitar.  Ani plays some chords on the bass and you can really see how the guitar plays a repeated pattern while the bass takes more of a lead role.  The call and response for this chorus is really tight.  Nina even plays a guitar solo.

“Sound of the Beat” (from 2018’s Roach Goin’ Down) is “a sweet testament to grooving” and gets a full lineup switch.  Nina sits behind the kit, Ani is back on guitar and Lily is on bass.  This song is really catchy–surely the catchiest thing in this set.  It has a feeling like early Sleater-Kinney.  All three sing harmony lead.

They end with “Before I Got Here” with same line up.  It’s one of their longer songs at over three minutes.  Ani and Lily switch off lead vocals for the fast verses.  After a minute or so, the tempo shifts and the last two minutes are a slow instrumental jam with Ani playing a guitar solo while Lily keeps the melody on bass.

It’s tempting to try to see if one of them is “better” at one instrument or another, but they are all clearly very comfortable on each instrument.  This leads to endless possibilities for songs.

[READ: May 1, 2021] Weird Women

“Introduction” by Lisa Morton and Leslie S. Klinger

Why summarize when they say what this book is about so well

Any student of the literary history of the weird or horror story can hardly be faulted for expecting to find a genre bereft of female writers, at least in its first two centuries. …

Yet there were women writing early terror tales—in fact, there were a lot of them. During the second half of the nineteenth century, when printing technologies enabled the mass production of cheap newspapers and magazines that needed a steady supply of material, many of the writers supplying that work were women. The middle classes were demanding reading material, and the plethora of magazines, newspapers, and cheap books meant a robust marketplace for authors. Women had limited career opportunities, and writing was probably more appealing than some of the other avenues open to them. Though the publishing world was male-dominated, writing anonymously or using masculine-sounding names (such as “M.E. Braddon”) gave women a chance to break into the market. It was also still a time when writers were freer than today’s writers to write work in a variety of both styles and what we now call genres. A prolific writer might pen adventure stories, romantic tales, domestic stories, mystery or detective fiction, stories of the supernatural—there were really no limits.

Spiritualism—the belief that spirit communication could be conducted by a medium at a séance, and could be scientifically proven (despite continued evidence to the contrary)—was widely popular, and so one might expect to find that many writers of this period were producing ghost stories. But ghost stories were just one type of supernatural story produced by women writers at this time. Women were also writing stories of mummies, werewolves, mad scientists, ancient curses, and banshees. They were writing tales of cosmic horror half a century before Lovecraft ever put pen to paper, and crafting weird westerns, dark metaphorical fables, and those delicious, dread-inducing gems that are simply unclassifiable.

ELIZABETH GASKELL-“The Old Nurse’s Story” (1852)
Gaskell wrote primarily about social realism, but she also wrote this creepy story.  The set up of this story is fascinating. A nursemaid is telling a story to her new charges.  The story is about their mother–from when the nursemaid used to watch her.  The story seems like one of simple haunting–strange things are afoot at this mansion.  But there’s a lot more going on.  I love the way everyone is so calm about the broken pipe organ playing music day and night.  Way back then, the children’s mother saw a girl outside and went to play with her.  But it was winter and when they found the child, alone, under a tree, there was no evidence of anyone else being there with her.  That’s when we learn the history of this house and the way the owner treated his daughters.  The ending gets a little confusing, but when you unpack it, there’s some wonderful deviance at hand. (more…)

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comicSOUNDTRACK: BERNARD HERMANN-Journey to the Center of the Earth soundtrack (1959).

Herhermannmann is best known for scoring amazing pieces of music for Alfred Hitchcock and Orson Welles.  And during his prolific period with Hitchcock, he scored the 1959 version of Journey to the Center of the Earth.

I have always admired Hermann’s scores as being very effective, although I’m not sure how enjoyable they would be to simply listen to (the opening to Psycho is pretty great as a piece of music though).

Because this is a ponderous sci-fi film that plumbs the depth of the earth, Hermann’s score is very ponderous as well, with long held very deep notes.  Although I haven’t actually seen it, so I don’t really know what is happening during the various score moments.  The opening sequence is very over the top, but it has some really great sounds in the organs (the bass notes are really ominous).

But it’s not all ponderous–there are trumpet blasts and harps.  The harp is quite a breath of fresh air and I can just imagine its revelation of something mystical.  Although the “march” is rather silly sounding and seems like something out of the Wizard of Oz (again, what could be happening in the film at this point?).  “False Arrow” is very uplifting (in a contemporary film sorta way) although with that title, I’m not too happy for them.

There are some moments like in Lost City/Atlantis where he sort of predicts prog rock.  There’s a  very cool organ sequence with single notes thrown in, that could easily come from mid period Pink Floyd.  While I wouldn’t want to listen to this soundtrack on its own for much of it, this sequence in particular could easily be played on a mix of trippy new age/prog rock music playlist.

Interestingly the soundtrack also has three songs sung by Pat Boone.  I didn’t actually listen to them so i don’t really understand how they fit in.  Especially in the soundtrack where they are interspersed with Hermann’s score.

[READ and WATCHED: mid July 2013]: Journey to the Center of the Earth

Recently re re-watched Journey to the Center of the Earth, the Brendan Frasier vehicle, with the kids.  It was a fun, kid-friendly adventure film—totally inoffensive and with a goodly amount of humor.  Aside from the gratuitous 3-D showoffiness (which just looks dumb in 2-D–can you even watch an old movie in 3-D on DVD?), the movie was enjoyable and, in its own way, faithful to the book.

I think.

For I have never read the book.  Despite the fact that I have a category called “Hollow Earth” and had a plan to read as many hollow earth-based books as I could find and have even read a few of the more obscure ones, I have not read the famous one.  (One of these days).  But as we were watching the movie Clark said that he recognized the giant mushrooms.  I had gotten him this graphic novel a few weeks before and he read it and said it was really good.  Then he said that I should read it, too.  Not one to turn down a recommendation, I did.

Now I have to admit that I found the story a bit jumpy and disjointed.  I felt like there needed to be some transitions between scenes and more than once I turned to see if I had skipped a page.  Of course, since I don’t know the original, I don’t know if this is how the book is written (I  would doubt it), nor do I know how faithful this is to the book.  I realize that it is a major abridgment and is just meant to convey the essence of the story.  And if it makes readers want to delve into the full book, that’s pretty cool.  Of course, the story is such an integral part of historical storytelling, that just having this basis is good. (more…)

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Some time ago, I reviewed all of the Superchunk EPs.  After progresing to their most current music, returning to their first album is a bit of a shock.  Superchunk’s first full length album is incredibly raw, with lots of screaming (two vocalists at once, even) and a very grungy attitude.  It has a DIY aestethic, in keeping with the undeground scene at the time.

The first four songs fly past in a pretty quick blur of adrenaline (the longest is just over 3 minutes).  The fifth song, the aptly named “Slow” slows things down and strecthes things out with a five minute track of slow distorted chords and a long solo.

Of course, the pinnacle comes with the next song “Slack Motherfucker” one of the best grunge anthems of all time. 

The last four tracks speed things up again with the bratty attitude that Superchunk is so good at (see especially “Down the Hall”).  But it’s not all just blistering speed.  The band has some dynamics down and there are a couple of tempo changes as well.

The album is a lot of fun to listen to, especially if you’re lookig for grunge before it became Grunge.  Although there’s very little indication that they would become the indie superstars that they eventually became you can clearly hear proto-Superchunk chunks–Mac’s voice is as it ever was and the noise is present but not overpowering.  There are even hints of melody (although nothing as catchy as later albums).  And yet for all that it sounds like a criticism, the album is really quite solid.

[READ: June 15, 2011] The Hollow Planet

Yes, THAT Scott Thompson, from The Kids in the Hall.  I found out about this comic book from my good friend Jessee Thorne at The Grid.

The backstory is that Scott Thompson had been working on this story for years and years.  He imagined it as a movie (starring him, of course).  When that didn’t pan out, he decided to sell it is a comic book.  And while he was recovering from cancer, he worked on it extensively with Kyle Morton–character likenesses and whatnot.  And now we have a cartoon rendering of Scott Thompson!

This story focuses on Scott’s character Danny Husk…

The book opens with Danny and his wife and kids at a carnival.  After a few moments, Danny’s son gets lost on the merry-go-round.  In the next scene we see just how much his wife is estranged from him (she may even be cheating on him), and how little his daughter thinks of him.  Soon after, Danny goes to work, inserts a disc into his laptop and more or less brings down his company.

So far nothing out of the oridnary for this type of  story–henpecked husband on a quest for revenge that he doesn’t know he wants yet.

Then Danny visits with his old friend Steve.  They talk, they bond over Danny’s concern about his wife.  And Danny feels better.  Until he gets home.  After a scene which I won’t spoil, the story suddenly takes off with a high speed car chase (no kidding) and with Danny entering the titular hollowness of the planet. (more…)

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The Feelies were based out of Haledon, NJ, a town not more than fifteen minutes from my house.  I’ve always felt this weird association to them.  One day a coworker drove me past one of the band members’ houses when I worked in North Haledon (in retrospect this was probably bullshit).

It was this album that introduced me to them.  Prior to the internet, it wasn’t always easy to find out how many albums a band had out, so I assumed this was their first.  I’d assumed that we were close in age and that I could have run into them at any local club or hangout.  Well, it turned out that this was their third and their first came out in 1980.  When I was 11.  So, clearly  there is absolutely no way we were peers.

Somehow, when I first heard The Feelies, I had not been exposed to The Velvet Underground (what?).  So, when I heard them, it didn’t occur to me to say, “Hey that guy sounds just like Lou Reed.”  And he does.  Almost uncannily so on “It’s Only Life”.

But hey, get past that and you’ve got a really great jangly alterna-pop record from the late 80s.   While R.E.M. is sort of the master of the jangly pop song, there’s no real comparison here (okay, actually “Deep Fascination” could be mistaken for R.E.M. until the vocals kick in).  The biggest difference is tempo. The Feelies just kind of meander along at a calm and relaxed pace.  Not slow enough to be, god forbid, dull, but not exactly peppy either.

One thing I like about the band is that the bass and drums are always out in front.  The bass, in particular seems to really propel the songs (especially “Too Much”) which provides a great rhythmic feels and allows the guitars ample room to roam.

And the guitars do roam.  There are two guitars and they share soloing duties.  This soloing bit is rather a departure for college radio bands in the late 80s.  So, it definitely set them apart (as did the fact that there are like 30 words in each song).

The gorgeously simple yet very compelling “Higher Ground” is certainly a high point for the disc.  As is their cover of the Velvet’s “What Goes On.”

When I was a DJ in college, I randomly selected “Away” to play during a show (the first Feelies song I’d heard).  Even after twenty-one years it’s still as fresh and interesting.  It’s also rather different from the rest of the album.  It’s uptempo for one thing.  But it also starts with a cool slow guitar opening.  The song builds faster and faster and has a great sing along chorus.   The drums also sound wonderfully abrasive.  It’s really a great song and a great introduction to an underappreciated band.

[READ: November 22, 2009] Intermere

Following hot on the heels of Symzonia, I received Intermere through Inter Library Loan.  Intermere is even shorter (at 150 pages)!

What I liked about the story is that it removes all pretense as to the setting up of and the getting to the inner earth location.  As the story opens, our narrator, Giles Anderton, is pretty much immediately in massive trouble.  The boat he is on is about to sink and he is soon plunged headlong into the ocean.  (What an exciting opening!)

When he wakes up a short time later, he is on an island and is warmly greeted by a group of very short but very beautiful (ie, very pale) people. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KATE BUSH-The Red Shoes (1993).

The Red Shoes is something of a disappointment. While I enjoyed The Sensual World, it was definitely moving in a more adult contemporary vein.  The Red Shoes proceeds even further in this direction.  Since Kate is getting older, it makes sense that her music would change as well.

But there are some really fun tracks on here as well.  And Kate’s initial experiments with world music (the Bulgarian Choir) has really expanded into a more global palette (the island feel of “Eat the Music,” for instance).

The first four songs of the disc are really great.  They show an amazing diversity.  The first single “Rubberband Girl” is quite fun and bouncey.  It has a rather silly middle section where she makes rubberband-like sounds.   “And So is Love” sounds like classic Kate, with some wonderful vocals.  “Eat the Music” is a crazy, up beat horn fueled island track (with wonderfully suggestive lyrics).  And  “Moments of Pleasure” is a delightfully romantic song.

However, beginning with “Song of Salomon” with its awkward chorus of “don’t want no bullshit, just want your sexuality” the album trails off a little bit.  The rest of the songs feel kind of hurried and unspecific; there’s nothing really grabby about them.  They’re not bad, but they’re not all that memorable.  In fact, “Constellation of the Heart” is one of those rare aspects of a Kate disc: a song that sounds really dated.

The one exception to this decline is “Top of the City,” a really nice ballad that features some classic Kate vocals.

Of the remainder, “Big Stripey Lie” has some cool sound effects and lots of weirdness floating around it (and I do quite like it) although it’s really not as substantial as her previous experimental pieces.

Probably the most controversial song on the disc is “Why Should I Love You?” a duet with Prince.  While the main chorus is pretty cool (and uncannily Prince-like) the rest of the track sounds (again) very dated.  The track also features the great comedian Lenny Henry on vocals.  However, since Henry is responsible for what may be the worst sitcom theme song ever in the history of music (it may actually make you want to not watch the rather funny Chef, it is so awful) his inclusion isn’t really all that wonderful.  The disc ends with “You’re the One” a weird (in a good way) track that features The Bulgarian Chorus again.  They seem to do a great job of keeping Kate’s songs focused, so the disc ends on a high note.

This disc is pretty soundly dismissed by even diehard Kate fans.  And it is definitely her least satisfying overall. But if you look deeper into the disc, there are some unfairly overlooked gems.

[READ: November 20, 2009] Symzonia

After reading Etidorhpa, I started looking around at other Hollow Earth books.  And thankfully, someone has done most of the work already. So, for an absurdly long list of Hollow Earth books, check out this link.  I was delighted to see that so many of them are quite short!

When I saw this book, and realized that it was about the world mentioned in “Symmes Hole” (from McSweeney‘s) and that it was very likely written by Symmes himself (there is still debate, but it is convincing that he wrote it) I decided to check it out.

Sadly, this book was considerably duller than Etidorhpa.  It was 250 pages and the first 100 were details of his journey to the South Pole.  Which would be fine except that since the author is a sailor he gives excruciating details about not only sailing, but even shipbuilding (including how smart he was for making the ship as strong as he did,) and the directions of the wind and speculation about longitude and all that great seafaring stuff.  That’s not my thing, so I found it rather tedious. (more…)

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17Many many years ago, I discovered Might magazine.  It was a funny, silly magazine that spoofed everything (but had a serious backbone, too).  (You can order back issues here).  And so, I subscribed around issue 13.  When the magazine folded (with issue 16–and you can read a little bit about that in the intro to Shiny Adidas Track Suits) it somehow morphed into McSweeney‘s, and much of the creative team behind Might went with them.

The early volumes (1-5 are reviewed in these pages, and the rest will come one of these days) are a more literary enterprise than Might was.  There’s still a lot of the same humor (and a lot of silliness), but there are also lengthy non-fiction pieces.  The big difference is that McSweeney’s was bound as a softcover book rather than as a magazine. And, I guess technically it is called Timothy McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern as opposed to Timothy McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. (more…)

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uriSOUNDTRACK: TINDERSTICKS-Waiting for the Moon (2003).

moonThis Tindersticks disc shows a bit of a departure for them.  Two of the first three songs are not sung by Stuart Staples (which is nice for diversity, but it is shocking to hear the first sung words on a Tindersticks disc be in the relatively high register of Dickon).  Not to mention, the song opens with lines about killing someone (!), which is a bit more drastic than most of their lovelorn lyrics.

The fourth song “4.48 Psychosis” is the most guitar heavy/rocking song in the band’s catalog, I think.  And the rest of the disc falls into a fairly traditional Tindersticks camp.

I’ve read a lot of reviews of this disc that describe it as a grower.  It’s entirely possible that I haven’t allowed this disc to grow on me enough, but I’m not as enamored of this one as I am with the rest.  The problem for me is that the first batch of discs are so magical that it just feels like this one is simply not as exciting.  Of course, any Tindersticks record is a good one, this one just isn’t quite as good as the rest.

Mayhaps I need to go back and try it a few more times?

[READ: October 31, 2009] Etidorhpa

I found out about this story when a patron requested it.  I’d never heard of it, and when I looked for it, it was very hard to find in our library system.  But when I Googled it, it was available as a Google Book.  They had scanned the entire thing and (since it was old and out of copyright) it was available free online!  Awesome.

I printed out the whole thing (double sided) and figured I would read it fairly quickly.  [Oh, and just to ruin my cool story about Google books, I see now that it is available in paperback for about $10 from Amazon.  Doh!]

Of course, I’m not just going to read something because it’s available as a Google Book.  The patron said that it was like Jule’s Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth.  I had just read “Symmes Hole” in McSweeney’s #4, so Hollow Earthers were already floating around my mind.  It all seemed to work out quite well.

By the time I started reading it, I had forgotten about the Hollow Earth ideas.  Which is fine, since the first 100 pages or so are given up solely to the ideas of occult sciences.  But, let me back up a bit first.

First there is a Preface.  Lloyd claims to have found this manuscript which was hidden by Llewellyn Drury.  Before he gets to the manuscript, though, he gives a little background about himself.   He also relates a lengthy story about the value of libraries and shared knowledge.  He concludes with speculation about Drury, and the revelation that although he is unwilling to specify how he came into possession of the manuscript, he has had it for seven years (as of 1894) and is finally convinced that it’s time to get it published.

My edition also contains a Preface about Daniel Vaughn. Vaughn is mentioned as a character in the story (but he was a real person as well).  In the story, Drury sought Vaughn’s assistance with some scientific matters.  So there’s a brief biography about the man.

AND THEN, there is a section called “A Valuable and Unique Library” which is another preface about the value of libraries.  I’m not even clear about who wrote it, if it’s supposed to be a plug for this book itself or if it’s just an ad for something.

Finally, the story proper begins.  But not without a preface by Drury himself, giving his own life story (his full name is Johannes Llewellyn Llongollyn Drury) but he decided to remove those two ugly names. (more…)

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