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Archive for the ‘Huh?’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: NEGATIVLAND-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #206 (May 6, 2021).

I’ve been a fan of Negativland since 1987 when I discovered Escape From Noise.  I even saw them live back in 2000–a very unusual concert, indeed.  I should have known that Bob Boilen knew of Negativland–he knows everything–but it’s always a surprise when someone has heard of them.

It may at first seem that Negativland’s sound collage is an unlikely candidate for a Tiny Desk concert, but honestly, how many bands can you think of making music since the late 1970s while sitting pretty much at their desks? Formed in the Bay Area, Negativland are proud subverters of culture, causing trouble while having fun.

Negativland are provocateurs, taking aim at the media and how technology alters our perception of the world. You can hear that on their 2020 album, The World Will Decide. This Tiny Desk (home) concert looks frightfully similar to the way many of us work these days — on video conference calls, reacting in real-time to our colleagues, dissecting our interactions … but also occasionally having fun.

Negativland create four tracks in 18 minutes–it’s samples and original music looped and repeated.

The found sounds of Negativland come from original members David Wills, Mark Hosler, and Jon Leidecker (from left to right on the bottom of the screen), with visuals by Kevin Slagle [digital images] and Sue Slagle [print images–you can see her hands] (top of the screen).

I don’t know if these songs come from an album or if they were made just for this Concert.  The first track “It’s Normal” opens with a sample saying “It’s normal for something to come to your attention/you’re watching live music online/the national anthem is being sung to a click track that you can’t hear.” And another saying “It’s Ok, ask me if it’s gong to be okay.”

Then a beat starts and all five start waving their finger to the beat.  Holser was wearing a pug mask.  When he takes it off he is wearing a Coronavirus mask, but he takes that off too–but all you can see is his gear.  Davd Willis (The Weatherman) has one of the more notable recorded voices in “music.”  I’m delighted to hear him speak, although he doesn’t just yet.  To start with he’s just playing with a mirror.

Then Jon asks what year is that Booper from?  Willis answers “2010 it never leaves Seattle.”  “It never leaves Seattle?” “Damn right.”

Samples continue, “we’re goin to verify every single experience.  Of course you can’t record everything that happens.”

The noise segues into “No Brain” with a sample “the simple fact is the world is trillions of times more complicated than we experience it.”  Samples of “meaningless data” and David playing with a remote that’s making buzzing sounds.  David: “my favorite remote control.”

The sample says “the world turns to meet your gaze” as it segues into “Reality Game.”   The sample: “we’re going to verify every single experience.”  And “You don’t have to pay people to participate.  Participation is its own reward.”

Throghout the clips there’s been all kinds of visuals floating around.  Scenes from movies and random patterns, as well as words that float around on pieces of paper.  Then comes a clip of whales floating in space.

Sample: “Patterns.  We think that they mean something.  Transparent bowling balls with monkeys inside them hooked up to the biometric monitors floating in outerspace.”

A new sample, “What does subaltern mean?”  (Willis laughs… “angry guinea pigs, hee hee”.  “You will have no idea who else is playing the game” (“I don’t give a damn”)  “Got it?” (Nope).

Then Jon asks David, are you in the mood for singing?  I might be.  Yea ,I’m getting a bit more excited.  I feel like I might want to sing.”  This is all intro to “I’m Going To Sing Now.”  of course his singing is just mumbling incoherent nonsense and making silly noises, including “I’m singing at the Tiny Desk.  I have no idea what that means but I’m doing it.”  I alwyas wondered if The Weatherman was crazy.  This des not help in my decision.

The song ends with the sample, “So this person can in fact sing.”

After some silence, David asks, “Is that it?” and then someone triggers the sample: “Shop as usual…. and avoid panic buying” (as heard on Escape from Noise).

O doubt this Concert gained them any new fans, but it’s always great to see them doing stuff.

[READ: June 1, 2021] “Atlanta”

The June 11 issue of the New Yorker had several essays under the heading “Summer Movies.”   Each one is a short piece in which the author (many of whom I probably didn’t know in 2007 but do know now) reflects on, well, summer movies.

The title of Miranda July’s essay is not about a feature film, but about a short film that she made.

When she moved into a new apartment, she found a copy of the Thunderball soundtrack wedged in a drawer.

Great, she decided, this would be the soundtrack to her movie (which she hadn’t made yet).

Her movie was inspired by the 1996 summer Olympics (it was 1996). The movie was an interview with a 12 year old Olympic swimmer and her overbearing mother.  Miranda played both roles.  She set some scenes at the YMCA–but no swimming scenes because she didn’t swim. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CARM-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #192 (April 15, 2021).

CJ Camerieri is a co-founder of yMusic, which is how I know him (I saw him perform with Ben Folds).

This is his new project, CARM.  Camerieri is also a member of Paul Simon’s band, a collaborator with Bon Iver and a Tiny Desk alum. (You can hear his French horn with The Tallest Man On Earth from their 2019 Tiny Desk Concert.)

“Soft Night” is the first track and introduces us to what CARM is about.  He plays trumpet while Trever Hagen plays electronics and sets up the melody and drums.  Then Camerieri switches to French horn while Hagen plays some trumpet.  Then in a fun moment, Camerieri picks up the trumpet with his right whole still holding the French horn in his left.  He plays the trumpet melody and then puts down the trumpet and starts on the French horn.  For the rest of this five-minute instrumental, the two jump back and forth playing trumpet riffs and leads as the electronics build satisfyingly.

For CJ Camerieri … home is where the art is. He performed his concert at the Pablo Center in Eau Claire, Wisc., where [he] conceived and recorded all the songs for his 2021 debut solo album, CARM. “This particular community has been a really big part of my musical life for 10 years,” CJ says after playing the calming tune “Soft Night,” “so it seems like the perfect place to be doing this.”

He made “Song of Trouble” with Sufjan Stevens.  They wrote it before the pandemic but the lyrics have taken on new meaning.  S. Carey plays piano and sings.  This is another mellow song with some lovely muted trumpet and simple electronics backing the song.

“Nowhere” is a little stranger.  It opens with jittery trumpet and skittery and loud electronics.  The juxtaposition of the organic horns and the electronic instruments is very cool.

“Slantwise” opens with some rapid and wild drum loops.  Then Camerieri loops the French horn and trumpet giving the song a rather majestic feel.

[READ: May 11, 2021] A Complicated Love Story Set in Space

The librarian in West Windsor recommended this book to my son.  He didn’t read it, but I loved the title and was really interested in reading it.

And wow, did I enjoy it.

I have not read anything by Hutchinson before, so I’m not sure how this compares to his other books, but this was, indeed, a very complicated love story.  In the acknowledgments Hutchinson says that originally the story was called Gays in Space.  And while that is a fun title, I think the final title is wonderfully compelling.

The story opens on Noa.  Noa is a normal teenager from Seattle.  But he has just woken up and he finds himself in a spacesuit, floating outside of a spaceship.  He has no recollection of how he got there.  There’s a note that says “You are in space floating outside a ship called Qriosity.  There is no reason to panic.”

Well, thank goodness for that.

After getting his bearings, a voice speaks to him.  The voice is from a teenaged boy named DJ.  DJ is from Florida and he is aboard the Qriosity.  He also has no idea how he got there.

They are each tasked with a pressing problem and if they don’t fix them immediately, the ship will explode.  Noa panics (as he tends to do) but DJ calms him and talks to him as they work together to fix the ship.  Which they do.  But as Noa is heading to the airlock, his tether is not attached and he is flung from the ship.  He has nowhere near enough oxygen and soon enough, he is dead.

That’s a rough start for the protagonist of the story. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE PEELS-“Juanita Banana” (1966).

I heard this song today on WXPN’s “Worst Song in the World” segment.  And as soon as it started, I understood why it was on there.

The person who submitted the song said she just wanted to know…  why? Why would someone make this?  And this is a good question.  More amazingly why would they make a Part 2?  (They did).

The song opens with a kind of Mexican guitar intro and spoken word story of Juanita–a banana grower’s daughter.  She wanted to sing at the opera, so she left the banana fields and went to the city.  And as the chorus comes in Juanita sings an incredibly high pitched (and way out of context) note that turns into the melody of “Caro Nome” from Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Rigoletto.

What?

Then the band sings the “Juanita Banana” chorus in a kind of Mexican accent complete with horns.

What?

Her melody comes one more time and just when you think that the operatic vocals are enough, Juanita’s father burns down the trees, moves to the city and sings in a deep voice the same melody.

They even duet at the end!

It is so bizarre, so potentially offensive, and yet so catchy (that Rigoletto part is wonderful) that it could only be a mid 60’s novelty song.

The DJ explained that it was a novelty song but it was actually a minor hit in 1966.  He said a little more about it, but sadly I  didn’t catch the whole story.

And yet I can’t get that scream melody out of my head.

[READ: May 3, 2021] “The Case for and Against Love Potions”

This story opens with an older, married man talking to a younger, single man.  The younger man asks what one should do if the person he loves does not love him back.  The older man is pleased that the younger man recognized that the older man is “the most sagacious man in this part of the country.”

I rather enjoyed the tone of the story and the amusing way the sagacious man spoke:

As you know, there are a million and three solutions to this problem.. .I imagine you tried at least twenty-eight of them before coming to see me today.

The best advice the man can give is simple: love potions. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KING GIZZARD AND THE LIZARD WIZARD-Live in San Francisco ’16 (2020).

This is a fun show from The Independent in San Francisco on May 25, 2016.  It’s on the Nonagon Infinity tour, which means a lot of stuff from that album appears here.

The one irritant is the woman who is a little too close to the soundboard.  You can hear her throughout the set, and she’s not exactly an intellectual giant.  She shouts, “Why do you have two drummers?” as the show starts.  This would be no big deal if it was all you could hear from her.

They album is a series of songs that segue into each other.  What I like here is that the first five songs do segue into each other but, while they start with the opening song “Robot Stop,” it segues into 2014’s slower “Hot Water” (from I’m in Your Mind Fuzz).  It’s very cool the way their songs keep a similar beat throughout.

They jump right back to Nonagon’s second song “Big Fig Wasp.”  From there they continue with Nonagon for two more songs, “Gamma Knife” and “People Vultures.”  It’s impressive how tight they are–they can stop and shift gears so seamlessly that they jump between songs as if it were one long song.

After the introductory five songs, they pause a bit.  There’s some banter with the audience, but the microphones are distorted and hard to make out.  They shift gears somewhat to the mellow Paper Mâché Dream Balloon album.  “Trapdoor” is one of he heavier songs on the album, made somewhat heavier here despite the preponderance of flute on it.

Then its back to the I’m in Your Mind Fuzz album.  The first four songs segue into each other on the album and they do so here as well.  “I’m in Your Mind” shifts into “I’m Not In Your Mind” which features a fun bass-only rumble for about a minute near the end. Stu says, “Hey, smile, you’re on camera,” then they jump right into the catchy “Cellophane” and end with “I’m in Your Mind Fuzz.”

The CD is broken into two short discs (KGATLW have a million albums but but their shows are never terribly long).  Disc Two opens with the mellow ten minute “The River” from Quarters.

You can hear the drunk woman shout “yeah, fuck yeah” and then start talking to her friend during the mellow part.  Even a curmudgeon like me admits that you can talk between songs, but not during the quiet parts of songs.  Come on!

After the mellow song it’s a quick jump back to Nonagon with a ripping “Evil death Roll.”  They jam this song out for over five minutes and then begin a mega 22 minute “Head On/Pill” with heavy and quiet parts as well as some classic KGATLW ending moments.

KGATLW put out a lot of records (5 in 2017), so each show tour tends to be very different.  This is a nice snapshot from later 2016.

[READ: April 25, 2021] “The Crooked House”

Mull is in a house that is crooked and keeps changing.

When it starts, he has just met the man who claimed to have exited the house by falling into a desert.

Mull had been to many places in the house.  He was searching for a woman.

The cafeteria seemed to always have coffee.  But passageways were getting blocked and opening in other locations.  He could no longer access the cafeteria, but now he could get to the atrium where people often brought hot foods.

It was in the atrium that he met the man who claimed to have left.  He said he went to Joshua Tree and got back by hitchhiking–it’s not that far. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: STEADY HOLIDAY-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert Meets SXSW: #187 (April 5, 2021).

Every year, NPR Music participates in the SXSW music festival, whether it’s curating a stage or simply attending hundreds of shows at the annual event in Austin, Texas. Last year, the festival was canceled due to the pandemic, but it returned this March as an online festival. We programmed a ‘stage’ of Tiny Desk (home) concerts and presented them on the final day of the festival. Now, we present to you Tiny Desk Meets SXSW: four videos filmed in various locations, all of them full of surprises.

Steady Holiday is the music of Dre Babinski. This video, filmed for our virtual SXSW showcase, finds her by the fireplace, a dog at her feet, an acoustic guitar in her arms. Steady Holiday is singing “Living Life,” a tune about a favorite topic of mine: the everyday, the mundane, and living in the moment. All the songs in this Tiny Desk (home) concert are from Steady Holiday’s 2021 album Take The Corners Gently, a top record of mine this year.

As “Living Life” opens, Dre Babinski sings the first verse solo, then you can hear other musicians join in and she reveals their secret location (with some very loud shutters).  Derek Howa plays a pretty solo on the keys and by the end of the song drummer Brijesh Pandya is “da da daing” along to really flesh out the song.

Surprise guests aren’t the only surprise.  After the first song, her printer (with googly eyes and an arm) prints out the next song on the setlist.

“Tangerine” is a bouncy song with some heavier ends and an interesting chord progression.  Howa’s keys sound almost like a toy piano (but louder) and add a chiming quality.  It’s wonderfully catchy.  I’m curious how much bigger the proper version of this song sounds. Howa adds some creepy spacey effects in the middle, so I imagine the recorded songs have more going on.

The printer spits out a piece of paper: Your band is overdressed.  Then she tells us why the guys are outside (it’s pretty funny).

Laughing while her dog grabs a chew toy, she performs the album’s opening track, “White Walls,” a song about self-reflection and how doing the same thing over and over (“painting white walls white”) won’t make life better.

This is a slow bouncy song with a really catchy chorus: “painting white walls white just to kill the time.”

Then she shutters out her band and

As her printer cues the last song, (oops, small spoiler), Steady Holiday takes us out on a lovely tune, Love Me When I Go To Sleep”:

It’s just Bea and her guitar as she delicately sings

“Fragile aren’t we, who would guess / Here today, tomorrow’s taking bets.” Her refrain amplifies that fragility with a reminder to appreciate the gift of life. “Love me when I go to sleep / Love me with no certainty / Love me when I go to sleep.”

Her voice is clear and lovely and the final song feels like a lullaby.

[READ: April 20, 2021] Joan & The Man

This book came in at work and something about it made me want to read it (the shortness helped).

So this is a self-published book (I think–it could use some editing) that we received as a gift (from the author?).  It is Rykaczewski’s fourth novel and it is a wonderfully weird mix of reality and nonsense.

Chapter One focuses on Joan as she tried on some clothes in a mall–she is buying bralettes–imposed propaganda to younger hip girls.  Then it pushes back as she and The Man head to their place–the World Revolt Art Gallery.  But more on that place after a brief excursion to the Riverbend Arts Market.

Joan & The Man are artists living in Florida.  She works in paint and he works in words.  They spend time at the RAM hoping to sell some works, but really it’s a sucker’s market.  They often head down with their dog Duke,  Duke is a nasty dog to everyone but The Man. Then there’s a weird moment where Duke winds up trading places with a movie star dog (to the terminal end of the movie star dog).  But losing Duke frees them. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KACY & CLAYTON-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #186 (March 29, 2021).

Kacy & Clayton had been generating some buzz around here just as the pandemic hit.  I hadn’t heard any of their songs, but their names kept cropping up.  And the one constant note was that they were cousins.

I don’t know who Marlon Williams is, or if he sings with them much (you’d think their name would be different) but he features prominently in these songs.

Across hemispheres, despite a nearly 8,000-mile separation, the Saskatoon, Canada duo of cousins Kacy & Clayton and New Zealand’s Marlon Williams manage to create harmony and intimacy. The Tiny Desk (home) concert, on the surface, is joyful and playful with animated illustrations by Daniel Syrnick.

They start with “I Wonder Why.”  Marlon sings lead and plays backing guitar on this one. Then Clayton play a quite electric lead guitar before Kacy kicks in with some really nice backing harmonies.  She sings in a striking country style although this song has a kind of old school country rock and roll feel.

Marlon’s Roy Orbison-like voice conjure a 1950s rock and roll sound that’s a surprisingly perfect match for Kacy’s serene voice.

A careful listen to “Plastic Bouquet,” the title track to the 2020 collaboration between Kacy Lee Anderson, Clayton Linthicum, and Marlon Williams, reveals a depth of storytelling more familiar in murder ballads than the trio’s upbeat Americana sound.

Kacy sings,

When a small four-door car was severed in two
Three girls were killed by a boy they all knew
Out for a party, they’d never attend
Pockets with money they never would spend

The devastatingly sad tale is met with smiles across hemispheres while an animated teacup pops on screen for Kacy to sip.

Kacy’s banter between songs seems really stiff for some reason.  But Marlon seems to be enjoying himself.

The “Arahura” has an old West/Americana feel despite the fact that the river is in New Zealand.  The yodeling vocals do work well together along with Clayton’s guitar licks.

Kacy stiffly says, “Wow that is a fun one.  It’s fun but it’s sad.”

“Isn’t It” has a very cool guitar riff and is a bit more uptempo.

It’s a magic collaboration of the very far north meeting the very deep south. The wizardry of technology reminds me of the wondrous world we often share these days, from a distance.

Before the final song, “Devil’s Daughter” comes the most awkward banter I have ever seen.

Marlon: It’s nice to be able to play these songs.
Kacy: It IS nice.  It’s nice because we know them.  [WTF?]
Marlon: I know, imagine if we didn’t
Kacy: Yes it’s be hard.  {WTF]

“Devil’s Daughter” is a pretty song with some nice guitar work from Clayton.

[READ: April 30, 2020] “Feel and Hold”

I’ve said before and this confirms my opinion that Diane Williams writes amazing sentences.  But cockamamie stories.

The Rotches went out for food in the morning.  But the meat didn’t look appetizing so they didn’t buy any.

This despite or because of the fact that the butchers hands were more expressive than their own–“those vendor’s hands could hold and feel at the same time.  When we hold a thing–I am not so sure we feel it.”

After a few paragraphs the story interrupts itself

Rotsch was–did I tell you this?–my friend Rotsch became quite a problem in the end and he fled to some remote part of the country.  I enjoy weird interruptions like that, but this story seems to be all interruption. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MR. BUNGLE-The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny Demo (2020/1986).

In 1986, Mr. Bungle released a demo tape called The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny.

In 2020, after a reunion tour of sorts, the band rerecorded the album, with some slight personnel changes. Original singer Mike Patton was still there as was masterful guitarist Trey Spruance and bassist Trevor Dunn.  But they had two impressive guests stars (who also performed live with them), Scott Ian (from Anthrax) on rhythm guitar and Dave Lombardo, drummer extraordinaire.

And thus they re-recorded the initial demo.  Fans of Mr. Bungle’s later genre bending work would be a little disappointed because this was pretty much a heavy heavy metal record.  But it is Mr. Bungle so you know there’s gonna be some weird stuff too.

The only song they don’t play from the original is “Evil Satan” which is more or less a goof anyway.

“Grizzly Adams” opens the album with a very pretty guitar instrumental. Spruance really shines with this moody, weird piece.  But even when the full band joins in in the last 30 seconds, it doesn’t prepare you for the heaviness to come.

“Anarchy Up Your Anus” is old school metal–heavy guitars with an Anthrax/Slayer vibe.  There’s even a lengthy scream after the opening drum fills.  This song has an opening narration by Rhea Perlman.  Yes.  Rhea Perlman.  The narration comes from the Chilling, Thrilling Sounds Of The Haunted House Disney album (on the demo they just played the audio from the record).

“Raping Your Mind” is out of sequence from the demo (it was originally song 6).  It continues with the heavy Anthrax-like riffage and some serious drumming.  There’s a cool middle moment where there’s two guitar solos and just bass and drums in the back–there’s some seriously wicked guitar soloing going on.

“Hypocrites /Habla Español o Muere” was originally a longer song, but they decided to shorten it and add this humorous cover of the Stormtroopers of Death song.  The title is mentioned in the first few seconds, then after 30 seconds, the song jumps into a bit of “la Cucaracha” and then segues into “Speak Spanish or Die.”

“Bungle Grind” is really heavy with some classic mosh sections and faster riffage.

“Methematics” is a new song.  It’s a bit more standard heavy metal and not so much early thrash until the double bass drums kick.  There’s lots of parts including a classic punk style in the middle.  This is more akin to the later, adventurous Mr. Bungle, but at 8 minutes it is a little long.

“Eracist” is another new song.  This one is great.  Really catchy with some good old fashion metal riffs and chanted chorus.  There’s a seriously heavy middle section, too.

“Spreading the Thighs of Death” was the third song on the demo.  It’s some good fast thrash with wicked chord changes and massive double bass drum.  There’s some really wild guitar soloing too.

“Loss For Words” is a Corrosion of Conformity cover.  It’s a pretty serious cover version.  Patton’s vocal delivery is even a little different.

“Glutton for Punishment” is another new song that fits into the classic riff an thump thrash.  There’s a whispered vocal part where you can actually hear the words!  And a fascinatingly fiddly guitar solo that left me wondering how he did it.

“Sudden Death” ended the demo and ends this as well.  A heavy chugging riff and super fast thrashing–it’s impressive that they can keep it up for seven plus minutes.  I rather liked the “yes/no” chanting at the end.

This album isn’t for everyone (as most Mr. Bungle albums aren’t).  But it does show off some quality old school metal and some serious skill for a band covering themselves 30 years later.

[READ: March 24, 2021] Zed

I saw this book in Barnes & Noble and fell in love with the cover.  I made sure to look for it at the library and was pretty psyched when it came in.

And I was pleased as soon as I started reading.

Set in the not too distant future, one tech company, Beetle, dominates the world.  I thought that Beetle was pretty inspired name.  It could be Apple (who have a connection to The Beatles, with Apple Records) and it looks a lot like the word Google, although I suppose it is probably closest to being about Amazon–with their online assistant Athena.

Nearly every citizen (the book takes place in London, but Beetle is global) wears a BeetleBand which monitors everything you do–like a Fitbit or Apple Watch on steroids.

It tells you when you are stressed or when you should hydrate or that you shouldn’t have that donut.  Indeed, everything is now really “smart”: fridges, doors, cars.  Everything in your house is monitoring you. And everyone has a Veep, a personal assistant who does everything for you (except for physical things, since it has no body). You pay for all the best stuff in Beetle bucks–the cryptocurrency that replaced actual  money as the dominant currency.  If you didn’t convert your pounds, euros or dollars, when the rate was good, you’re just stuck.

When the book says everyone, it’s really mostly everyone. There are some people who can’t afford such extravagance.  People who don’t work for Beetle get paid in regular money which isn’t very useful.  There are also neo-Luddites who want nothing to do with Beetle.  But they are carefully monitored by Beetle.

Most people work and communicate in a virtual world with avatars that are some version of themselves.  And most importantly, every person has a Lifechain–the algorithm that determines the longevity and happiness you should experience.  This predictions are pretty much never wrong and everyone uses them to judge people–employers, police, etc. Everything you do, every decision you make changes our Lifehchain, which changes you likelihood of doing x y or zed. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MILEY CYRUS–Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #161 (January 28, 2021).

I’m quite torn about Miley Cyrus.  I respect her individuality and her desire to push boundaries (and her Happy Hippie Foundation [created to rally young people to fight injustice facing homeless youth, LGBTQ youth and other vulnerable populations] is pretty great).  But sometimes I don’t always love her choices.

In all that time I’ve never given much attention to her music.  She was a pop singer (or worse, a country singer) and that was that.

Now, after getting mixed up with The Flaming Lips, who even knows what she’s up to.

For her Tiny Desk Concert (I can’t believe it’s barely over 11 minutes when so many other have done them over 20) she has built a tiny room, complete with a bed and a window and posters on the wall.  The room itself is probably three feet high and Miley, bedecked in a fascinating array (fake, one assumes) furs an leopard skin pants and a big hat and glasses.

The blurb gives rather an extensive narrative to Cyrus’ video

Here, the scene opens with Cyrus, dressed head to toe in rock-star faux fur, in what looks like a teenage girl’s bedroom. But the perspective in this pink-and-purple space feels a little … odd.  As Cyrus sings, it becomes clear that this is her Wonderland – like Alice full of magical cake, she’s grown to exceed her surroundings. By the end of this three-song set, Cyrus reveals that it’s the adolescent enclave that grew too small for her, not the other way around.

That give a lot of credit to a little video.  But whatever.  First she lounges on her bed and sings a pretty intense version of Mazzy Star’s “Fade into You.”

The original was pretty chill (and maybe a little boring) and Miley inject some powerful screams in the middle and her voice gets all raw.  It adds some drama to an otherwise chill song.  Or as the blurb says

a hazy psychedelic anthem that she infuses with just the edge of the next day’s hangover.

Up next are two songs from her latest album.

The two songs from Plastic Hearts that follow are her own bids at classic-rock timelessness.

In “Golden G-String” Cyrus assesses her own life in the spotlight with Leonard Cohen-esque charm.

She takes off her coat and hat (the video ifs filmed from different angles and there’s some overlapping edits.

This song is really quite catchy.  I think Id like to hear the album version.

And “Prisoner” is the power ballad that lets Cyrus really break out – as she leaves the tiny room — just a box, it turns out, on a soundstage – and joins her band,

Her poor band is never really on camera. It pans around a little before prisoner–you see some hands and some hair of Stacy Jones: drums; Mike Schmid: keys; Max Bernstein: guitar; Jamie Arentzen: guitar and Joe Ayoub: bass.

“Prisoner” sounds like a classic rock song-maybe from Heart or Fleetwood Mac.  This album is getting some good accolades and I might just have to check it out.

[READ: March 18, 2021] I Text Dead People

We brought this book home from the library for my daughter, but I found myself reading and (sort of) enjoying it.

Annabel Craven and her mother have just moved from Sacramento to this small town.  They moved because Annabel’s Uncle died and left his house to them.  Since they lived in a tiny apartment in Sacramento, her mom figured it was a step up.  Except that their new house is actually a creepy old “haunted” house that is adjacent to a cemetery.

On her first day of school, Annabel took a shortcut through the cemetery where she found a phone.  She had recently broken her phone and her mother was trying to teach her the value of things by making her save up for a new one.

Obviously, she will return this found phone to its owner, but until then, it might be nice to be able to communicate with people  Sadly, the phone has no power so she couldn’t locate its owner anyhow. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKRHEOSTATICS-The Beverley Tavern (October 28, 1983).

This is one of the first recordings of the Rheostatics live.  As the blurb says, the band was only a trio at the time (Martin Tielli had not joined yet).

It is amazing that a show this old sounds so good – not great but considering it is from 1983 not too bad. It is also weird as hell. I’m not sure if it was the 27, 28 or 29 of October 1983 but since the 27th is my birthday I’ll go with that date. [They later say it’s Friday night, which was the 28th].  I think this is a Triostatics show with just Tim, Dave B and Dave C.

Some of these songs don’t appear anywhere else.  Like the first one “Get Rich, Get Bored” which really shows off how new wave they were in the beginning.  It’s got a funky bass line with jagged new wave guitar from Dave and I assume Tim singing.

The band was really goofy back then too (not that they aren’t now, but a sort of wild goofiness pervades this evening.  Like Clark saying “I don’t know what the hell’s sitting behind the drum kit” and Tim letting everyone know that “anything’s possible on Halloween.”  Until someone helpfully yells “It’s not Halloween yet.”

“Chemical World” is one of those early new wave songs that they played a lot but which never made it onto Greatest Hits.

There’s some peculiar banter that is hard to hear but it sure sounds like they thought it was funny.

“we’re gonna change our name to R and then to H and then K?   What’s up next on the bill Mr Vesely?  It’s in the key of C.  You’re cheap, like your clothing.  Woman in audience: “but he’s not easy.”

Dave Clark says “Straight to Hell” is about Dave B’s father.  Tim sings in a weird style, over new wave guitar chords and a seemingly random bass.  The middle has a spoken word part with a drum and bass breakdown: “Now Richard, what seems to be the problem…   doesn’t know what to do–he’s going straight to hell.”

Dave B asks, “Satellite Dancing” Someone: “No!”  “Satellite dancing” “No!”

So instead they play “National Pride” another song that they played a lot but which didn’t make it onto the debut (which in fairness came out four years later.  Dave B says they released this song a long time ago and nobody bought it so they’re going to play it tonight and hope someone buys it.  Midway through Dave says “specials effects, Julia Child” and then sings in a crazy falsetto.  Then Dave says “What was Reagan doing on TV the other night?  Explaining why he had invaded a country the size of East Toronto.”  The song ends with a mangled opening of The Star Spangled Banner.

Dave says someone complained they weren’t going to come to the show, “aw you guys play funk. I don’ want to see you play funk.”  So they play a funky “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin).”  They thank Rick the amazing man with the echo machine.  Tim says, before you take anymore pictures let me put my hair on.  As the song ends, Dave says, “who said the 70s are dead?  Not us I tell ya.”  “It was you!  In a drunken haze you said the 70s are dead.”

Clark: lets do all 70s songs about the word Monday.

Up next is “No Religion,” the b side of our National Pride single that nobody bought.  It’s a bouncy song with la la las, although I can’t really make out words.
Clark: The b side of Tim’s underwear.
Tim: “The dirty side. Oh my gosh I don’t say things like that.

Someone shouts, “chicken rap.”  Then they say “Do ‘Walk the Line.’  It’s Friday night!  Tim plays a minute long bass riff “okay, that was our cover of “I Walk the Line.”
Clark: “we play both kinds, country and western.”

It’s crowd participation night we want the guy who was dressed like an albino up here. (dressed like an albino?).
He left.
They play “Louie Louie” and ask for volunteers.  Someone comes up” “Ladies and gentlemen the Prince of Toronto.”  The guy sings a made up verse.  It comes to a wild crashing rumbling ending.  You can almost imagine them smashing things.

Clark: “Okay that means we have to do an encore.”
It’s a song by Chic called “Good Times.”  Tim plays the bass line more or less the right way but the song sounds different the way they play it.  Then comes “the highlight of the evening” Dave Bidini singing “Fly Robin Fly” in falsetto!

Definitely an unusual show, but I love Darrin’s name “Triostatics.”  I’m glad they didn’t stay a new wave band.

[READ: March 10, 2021] “The Specks in the Sky” 

I had put off reading this story because it was so long (19 pages!).  But I regretted putting it off as soon as I started it because this story was weird and wonderful. Until the end.

Set on a farm in the middle of nowhere, “two-hundred and twenty-five days after my father left home” the young narrator Ryder, along wither her older sister, Aileen, and her mother are outside when they see specks in the sky.

They don’t know what they are until the get closer and it becomes clear that these are men parachuting to the ground.  The parachutes are pink, the men are all in red jumpsuits.

The first man lands mostly gracefully and clears his parachute away.  He introduces himself as Commander Kyle Cheshire.  Slowly, thirteen more men fall out of the sky.  One of them is immediately taken with Aileen “a real beauty with long hair and breasts and everything.”  But before anyone can say anything the commander takes roll call.

That’s when they realize that Chip Gainsborough didn’t make it.  His parachute must not have opened. The men are very upset, none more so than Bud who bemoans his oldest friend–they used to go crabbing in Maine together when they were little.

Finally the mom asks them who the hell they are–army navy, what?  The commander regrets that everything is classified, he can’t say anything,  The only thing he can relate is that their plane had trouble 20,000 feet in the air and they all had to jump out.  But they will be acting lawfully under the terms and conditions outlined in Section 15 of the Parachuting Handbook, Landing Upon Civilian Property Clause No 33B where it sates explicitly that we are to assist the said civilians in any way we can during our stay on the civilian premises. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CECIL TAYLOR-Jazz Advance (1956).

As the biography below states, Cecil Taylor was ahead of his time and harshly criticized for being so.  This was his first album and it made waves–as did his subsequent performance at Newport Jazz Festival (it’s like when Dylan went electric, but for jazz).

Since I’m not a big jazz follower, I’ll start with those who are.  Here’s some notes on the album from The Guardian.

A Taylor group comprised of Buell Neidlinger on bass and Dennis Charles on drums is augmented here and there by soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy; the repertoire mixes tunes by Ellington, Monk and Cole Porter with the leader’s fearlessly personal reinventions of the blues. Thelonious Monk’s “Bemsha Swing” is played even more cryptically and succinctly, the lines breaking up into jagged fragments and jutting chords. Taylor’s “Charge Em Blues” is a 4/4 walk with a surprisingly straight Lacy sax solo, and “Azure”‘s lazily struck chords and delicate treble sounds might even remind you of Abdullah Ibrahim, until the cross-rhythmic improvised piano patterns clattering chords typical of later Taylor emerge. …  It’s a historic document that still sounds more contemporary than most jazz piano music being made today.

As I listened I first thought it didn’t sound all that shocking and I wondered if that was because I was listening in 2021 and not 1956, but around two minutes into “Bemsha Swing” he starts throwing in some atonal and dissonant notes.  You can tell that he knows how to play, but that he’s deliberately hitting either “wrong” notes or just letting his fingers fly where they will.   And it still sounds surprising today.

“Charge ‘Em Blues” sounds far more “normal” at least in the beginning.  Lacy’s sax solo is fun and bouncy.  Then around 5 minutes a back and forth starts with Taylor’s wild free-jazz atonal improv and a drum solo.

“Azure” is a more chill track although about halfway through the improv starts going off the rails.

About half way through “Song” the solo is all over the place–sprinkling around the piano and pounding out a few chords here and there.  It’s dissonant and off-putting, but seem more like it’s trying to wake up the listener. When Lacy’s pretty sax comes in and plays a delightful improv and Taylor is bopping around behind him, the contrast is stark.

“You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To” is the only song on the record that I knew before and I never would have recognized it here.  As AllMusic puts it

At his most astonishing, Taylor slightly teases, barely referring to the melody of “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To,” wrapping his playful, wild fingers and chordal head around a completely reworked, fractured, and indistinguishable yet introspective version of this well-worn song form.

This is a solo piece and he is all over the place.  At no point did I recognize the original melody.

“Rick Kick Shaw” features some lively drums and walking bass while Taylor goes to town.  He plays some really fast runs which slowly turn experimental. I’m very curious if future renditions of this song were in any way the same or if all of this soloing was improvised each time.

“Sweet and Lovely” is very slow and more traditional sounding.  Without the speed of his solos, this song comes across as almost like a standard jazz song.  Although at the very end he throws in a few sprinkles of chaos just because he can.

[READ: February 2, 2021] The Musical Brain

I’d only read a couple of short stories from César Aira (all included here).  His novels are so short it almost seems weird that he’d write short stories, but some of these stories are very short indeed.  They do also tend to meander in the way his novels do which makes it seem like some of them don’t end so much as stop.

“The Musical Brain” was the first story I’d read by Aira, and what I wrote about the story has held true for pretty much everything I’ve read by him:

There are so many wonderful and unexpected aspects to this story that I was constantly kept on my toes.  This also made it somewhat challenging to write about.

“A Brick Wall”
I thought I had read this story before but I guess I hadn’t.  It begins with the narrator saying that he went to the movies a lot as a kid–four or six films a week (double features). He says he has an impressive memory for details.  He remembers seeing Village of the Damned decades ago.  A small village’s children are all born as zombies. The zombies can read everyone’s minds so the hero thinks–erect a brick wall.  He also remembers North By Northwest which was titled in Argentina: International Intrigue.  He and his friend Miguel loved the elegance of the movie. And they decided to become spies.  So they created a game in which they would “forget” that they were spies. They would leave notes for each other and then “discover” them so that when they came upon them they were new and exciting.  It was surprisingly easy to forget the game, apparently. (more…)

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