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Archive for the ‘Boston Review’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: RICHARD THOMPSON-Grizzly Man Soundtrack (2005).

This is a largely instrumental soundtrack by Richard Thompson.  It features some wonderful guitar work (no surprise there).  There are several slow acoustic numbers (“Tim & the Bears,” “Foxes”–which is in the style of his old traditional folk ballads) there’s also the slow impassioned electric guitar solo (set over a simple beat) of “Main Title.”  “Ghosts in the Maze ” is a dark piece, the exact opposite of “Glencoe” a traditional-sounding song, both of these are under two minutes long.  “Parents” adds a cello, which means a sombre song.  “Twilight Cowboy” is one of the longer pieces, and it really conveys an openness of nature.

“Treadwell No More” is a slow six-minute dirge type song.  “That’s My Story” has spoken dialogue by Treadwell, over a simple unobtrusive guitar.  But as the title of the record says, Music composed and performed by Richard Thompson.  Which means there are other musicians on the soundtrack too.  “Small Racket” is where things start to get noisy and a little uncomfortable.  There’s some squeaks and slashes of sound, but it’s mostly a tense guitar feel.  Then comes the darker, scarier stuff.  “Bear Fight,” is a series of cello noises and swipes.  “Big Racket” is indeed that, with guitar from Henry Kaiser and noises from Jim O’Rourke.  “Corona for Mr Chocolate” is all Jim O’Rourke, it’s also odd noises and moods.  None of these three songs are terribly off-putting but they reflect a very different tone.

The album ends with “Main Title Revisited,” which is what it says and “Coyotes” by Don Edwards which has some coyote yodels.

It’s a good soundtrack, really conveying what the movie is about, and while not essential Richard Thompson, it is still some great guitar work

[READ: July 23, 2012] Magic Hours

I thought that I had never heard of Tom Bissell, but I see that I have read three of these articles already (I guess I don’t always pay attention to the author’s name).

This collection of essays comes from the last eleven years (2000-2011).  The articles have appeared in The Believer & The New Yorker (these are the ones I have read) and Boston Review, Harper’s, New York Times Magazine, Virginia Quarterly Review, New York Times Book Review and Outside (which I am starting to think I should really check out more).

Primarily they are articles about writing–he looks at fiction, non-fiction, film or a combination of them.  Bissell is a strong writer and he does not hold back when he sees something he likes or dislikes.  I found his articles (all of which are quite long–about 30 pages each) to be engaging, funny and very persuasive.  I’m really glad I read the book (and was even glad to re-read the articles that i had read before). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ULVER-Bergtatt (1994).

Ulver has some music in the soundtrack to Until the Light Takes Us and my friend Lar pointed me to a location where you could download a bunch of their music (this was before Spotify of course). 

So I grabbed a few of their albums expecting to hear some brutal death metal.  And I kind of did, but I also heard classical guitar, flute solos and chanting.   So this album’s full title is Bergtatt – Et eeventyr i 5 capitler (“Taken into the Mountain – An Adventure in 5 Chapters”) and it comes in at a whopping 35 minutes–not bad for an epic.

The opening track (“I Troldskog faren vild” (“Lost in the Forest of Trolls”)) is fascinating–a kind of chanting vocals over a quietly-mixed-in-the-background black metal.  The music is so quiet (and yet clearly black metal) that it almost comes across as ambient noise, especially over the multilayered chanting (I have no idea what language they are singing in).  It ends with a pretty acoustic guitar passage that segues into a very traditional sounding heavy metal section–with a catchy solo that takes us to the end.

“Soelen gaaer bag Aase need” (“The Sun Sets Behind Hills”) opens with, of course, a flute solo.  It’s a minute long and quite melancholy before blasting into the fastest of heavy black metal complete with growling vocals and nonstop pummeling.  But after a minute of that it’s back to the layered chanting like in the first song.  The song ends with a conflation of the two–the chanting metal with the growling black metal underneath.  It’s quite a sound.

Track three “Graablick blev hun vaer” (“Graablick Watches Her Closely”)opens with a lengthy acoustic guitar intro–not complicated, but quite pretty and unlike the poor recording quality of the metal, it seems to be recorded with high quality equipment.  After about 45 seconds that gives way to more black metal.  In a strange twist, the black metal section just fades out, replaced by more acoustic guitar and what seems like the end of the song.  But instead, there is a strange quiet section–not music, but sounds–like someone walking around in the cold forest with crunchy noises and little else.  For almost two minutes.  Until the black metal comes back with a vengeance.

Slow guitar with slow chanting opens track 4 “Een Stemme locker” (“A Voice Beckons”) (the shortest at only 4 minutes).  And the amazing thing is that it doesn’t change into something else.  It is a nice folk song.

The final song “Bergtatt – Ind i Fjeldkamrene” (“Bergtatt – Into the Mountain Chambers”) has a blistering opening followed by some of the most intricate acoustic guitars on the record.  It morphs into a very urgent-sounding black metal section which lasts about 5 minutes.   But just to keep us on our toes, the song (and the disc) end with more classic acoustic guitar.

There is a story here (allmusic says it is a Norse legend about maidens being abducted by denizens of the underworld) and that might help explain the music madness.  But as a musical composition it works quite well.  The chanting over the black metal is really effective and the acoustic instruments bring a nice sonic change from the pounding metal. 

This is not for everyone obviously, but the diversity makes this an interesting introduction into the black metal scene.  Baby steps. 

[READ: November 4, 2011] “Apocalypse”

This is the final non-fiction essay of Junot Díaz that I could find online.  The other one comes from GQ and is called “Summer Love”, but there’s no access to it online. 

In this essay, Díaz looks at the impact of the earthquake that devastated Haiti now that it has been over a year.  Díaz was born in the Dominican Republic which has a long and very brutal history with the people of Haiti–they share a land mass after all.  But rather than looking only at Haiti and how it was devastated, Díaz takes this as an opportunity to see what the earthquake reveals about our country and the state of the world.

The essay is broken down into eight parts.  The first revisits what happened.  The second discusses the meanings of apocalypse, which sets up the “theme” of this essay.  The First: the actual end of the world (which for the thousands of people who died, the earthquake was); Second: the catastrophes that resemble the end of the world (given the destruction of Haiti and the devastation that still lingers, this is certainly applicable); Third: a disruptive event that provokes revelation.

Díaz is going to explore this third option to see what this earthquake reveals. 

What Díaz uncovers is that the earthquake was not so much a natural disaster as a social disaster–a disaster of our creating.  The tsunami that hit Asia in 2004 was a social disaster because the coral reefs that might have protected the coasts were decimated to encourage shipping.  Hurricane Katrina was also a social disaster–years of neglect, the Bush administration’s selling of the wetlands to developers and the decimation of the New Orleans Corp of Engineers budget by 80 percent all contributed to a situation where Katrina could be so devastating.

Then he talks looks at the history of Haiti.  I had known some of this story, but not as much as he provides here–the constant abuse of the citizens, the constant abuse of their finances (both from simple theft and from French and American planning that changed their economy).  There’s also the story of “Papa Doc” Duvalier.  Basically Haiti was a disaster waiting to happen. 

Díaz goes into great detail about the global economy and how it impacted the poor in Haiti and he shows that it doesn’t take a lot of extrapolation to see it reflected in the rest of the world as well.  With the constant rise in standards for the wealthy and the constant abuse that the poor take, it’s not hard to see that Haiti could easily happen here.  If not in our lifetime, then certainly in our childrens’.

But Díaz has hope.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CUPPA JOE-Busy Work EP (1993).

This EP was one of the first releases on the Dromedary label.  It contains 3 songs.  Whenever I think of cuppa joe, I think of them being a somewhat lightweight band; charming and fun, but lightweight.

And I think most of this is due to the lead singer’s voice.  It’s quite delicate and veers towards, but never quite reaches whiny territory.  Comparisons to They Might Be Giants are not unfounded.

But the thing is that, musically, the band plays a wonderfully diverse selection of styles, some of which emphasize the singer’s delicate voice, and others which play in a wonderful contrast to it.

Take their brilliant first song on the EP, “Bottlerocket”.  The chords are masterful and intriguing as the song opens, moving towards a fast, propulsive verse and an insanely catchy chorus (with backing vocal harmonies!).  It’s a tremendous song, and cuppa joe could easily rest on their laurels after creating such a masterpiece.

The other two songs on the EP are more of that delicate style that I think of as distinctly cuppa joe.  “French Toast” is a very quiet little ditty about, yes french toast.  It’s catchy and seems to be an ideal b-side, sounding almost like a demo.

The third track, “Surface Area” starts out almost as an homage to R.E.M. “I am Superman” with the jangly guitars and all, but the jazzy bassline totally changes the tone of the song.  Overall it splits the difference of the other two, being a fully realized song that gets a surprise lift from loud and raucous guitars about halfway through.

It’s a really great representation of this cool indie band.  And it will be available for download in a few days right here.

[READ: February 17, 2010] 2 Poems

These are the first two Bolaño pieces that I found while looking around online.  These poems are very likely published elsewhere.  However, since I’m not a big reader of poetry, I don’t think I’ll be reading his poetry collections in full.

Both poems were translated by Laura Healy. While it’s impossible to know if she did a good job of translation (since I can’t do it myself), all I can comment on is the quality of the English words. And in both cases, she chooses very exhilarating words to convey these images. (more…)

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