Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Brian Eno’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: LARAAJI-Tiny Desk Concert #846 (May 2, 2019).

Who is Laraaji?

I had no idea, and yet, it seems like I should.

40 years ago … Brian Eno produced an ambient album of his music called Ambient 3: Day of Radiance as part of a series of ambient records from Eno that began with 1978’s Ambient 1: Music for Airports. Edward Larry Gordon, now known as Laraaji, was a comedian as well as a musician. I suppose that explains the laughter as part of his meditative and therapeutic music. Laraaji is now in his mid-70s, has released over 50 recordings as well as an abundance of sound-healing sessions.

Laraaji and his musical partner Arji “OceAnanda” Cakouros (“draped in loose-fitted, saffron-tinted clothes, with a table draped in a similar orange fabric — almost the tones of a setting sun”) play an uninterrupted 15 minutes of chillout, which they call “12345678…”

It begins with a small bell, a set of tiny wind chimes and a plucked, angelic zither sounding much like a harp.

Laraaji plays the electric autoharp/zither and has a cool swirling echoing effect on it.  Meanwhile OceAnanda has all manner of percussion at her disposal, including, chimes, shakers, and most surprising, and iPad synth (but that comes later).

The opening is incredibly soothing with just chimes and the autoharp  Laraaji uses a pick and his fingers to create notes and chords.  With the delay on it, it is incredibly chill.

After about two minutes OceAnanda plays some notes on the iPad.  Then around 3 and a half minutes Laraaji picks up drum stick brushes and begins gentle tapping the autoharp.  OceAnanda plays the kalimba, which is a little too loud, but still works nicely.

Then Laraaji began to laugh. I smiled. (His laugh is infectious). Then more of us in the office smiled as he brushed rhythms on his zither and processed the sounds to add delay and intensify the hypnotic pulse.

I agree that his laugh is infectious, but I found it so jarring that his laughter turned into him singing.  Rather than it being fifteen minutes of blissful chill out, it was now a song with words–even if the words were meaningless, or very familiar.  He sang “12345678” and “lum lum lum lum lumalum la”

But since the majority of the song has him singing over it, I soon got used to it and allowed it to wash over me as well.  But, really his voice definitely brings you out of the headspace you’ve created for yourself.  Even if his laugh is indeed infectious.

At seven and a half minutes OceAnanda starts playing a violin melody on the iPad and it works very nicely–slow and pretty with a melody that works, even if it is random.  After a couple minutes she changes the sound of the violin to a more synthy sound, which fits in even better.

With a few minutes left, OceAnanda switches to a shaker which works its own hypnotizing momentum.  And then for the end, she plays a bit more of  that violin iPad while Laraaji sings the words from “this little light of mine.”

And then it all fades and you come back to reality.

[READ: July 1, 2019] “Bacon Fat”

The Summer 2019 issue of The West End Phoenix was a special all comics issue with illustrations by Simone Heath.  Each story either has one central illustration or is broken up with many pictures (or even done like a comic strip).

Each story is headed by the year that the story takes place–a story from that particular summer.

1974: This is a short story about the summer that Michael’s family wanted to build a log cabin on a piece of land in Newfoundland.  It was a popular place and they had next door neighbors at the lake who built a log cabin in what seemed like a weekend.

His parents were from England. But his dad always wanted to be a cowboy and his mom always wanted to live in New York City.  So they settled on Newfoundland. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: DAVID BYRNE AND BRIAN ENO-My LIfe in the Bush of Ghosts [Remix website] (1981, 2006).

I’m stealing the bulk of these comments from a Pitchfork review of the album reissue because I have never actually listened to this album which I’ve known about for decades.

When Eno and Byrne released My Life in 1981 it seemed like a quirky side project.  But now, Nonesuch has repackaged it as a near-masterpiece, a milestone of sampled music, and a peace summit in the continual West-meets-rest struggle. So we’re supposed to see Bush of Ghosts as a tick on the timeline of important transgressive records.  Nonesuch made an interesting move that could help Bush of Ghosts make history all over again: they launched a “remix” website, at www.bush-of-ghosts.com, where any of us can download multitracked versions of two songs, load them up in the editor of our choice, and under a Creative Commons license, do whatever we want with them.

The only thing is, at the time this review was written, the site was not up yet.  And as I write this in 2019, there’s nothing on the site except for a post from 2014 about Virgin Media and Sky TV.  Alas.

[READ: May 1, 2019] “The Ecstasy of Influence”

Back in the day I was a vocal proponent of free speech.  It was my Cause and I was very Concerned about it.

It’s now some thirty years later and I don’t really have a Cause anymore.  It’s not that I care less about free speech, but I do care less about the Idea of free speech.

Had I read this article in the 1990s, I would have framed it.  Right now I’m just very glad that people are still keeping the torch alive.

Lethem begins this essay about plagiarism by discussing a novel in which a travelling salesman is blown away by the beauty of a preteen girl named Lolita  That story, Lolita, was written in 1916 by Heinz von Lichberg.  Lichberg later became a journalist for the Nazis and his fiction faded into history.  But Vladimir Nabokov lived in Berlin until 1937.  Was this unconscious borrowing or was it “higher cribbing.”

The original is evidently not very good and none of the admirable parts of Nabokov’s story are present in the original.

Or Bob Dylan.  He appropriated lines in many of his songs.  He borrowed liberally from films, paintings and books.  Perhaps that is why Dylan has never refused a request for a sample. (more…)

Read Full Post »

sistersSOUNDTRACK: DANIEL LANOIS-Tiny Desk Concert #415 (January 13, 2015).

lanoisI don’t really know very much about Daniel Lanois. I know he’s a great producer.  I know that he’s worked with Brian Eno on an umber of projects. I even know that he has at least one album out of his own.  But other than that he’s an enigma to me.

And he remains so here.

He and his bassist Jim Wilson and drummer Brian Blade, play three instrumentals that are more or less improvised.

Lanois stands with his back to the audience, facing the other two guys. And aside from some closeups of his gear, the only interesting thing visually that happens is that the drummer knocks over an LP during a song and picks it up.

Lanois’ gear is totally perplexing to me—there’s knobs and buttons but no keyboards, so I don’t know where the sounds are coming from.  The bassist keeps a steady rhythm while Lanois turns and spins and slides things. Musically it’s not all that interesting—it’s sort of mellow background electronica.

The best part of the whole deal is the drummer. He plays some amazing fills and runs on that snare and hi hat.  It’s amazing the complexity he is able to achieve with just a bass, snare and hi hat. He also smiles a lot which is nice to see from these rather dour men.

Lanois doesn’t say a thing during the set, not even when it’s over.  You can see it here.

[READ: February 10, 2015] Sisters

I really enjoyed Smile, although I found out about Smile when Sisters came out.  So this is a sequel to Smile (although Raina still has her braces on during the book, so I guess it’s more of a concurrent story).

As the story opens, Raina (age 14) and her family (her mom and dad. her baby brother (6) and, grr, her sister (age 9)) are visiting relatives in Colorado.  Their dad has some work to attend to so he will be flying in a few days later, but everyone else is going to hop in the van and drive from Colorado to California and then back–so that’s basically two weeks in the car and one week in California.  Ugh.

The only saving grace is that their van has three rows of seats so each girl has a seat to herself while their brother rides shotgun.

Before they head out, we see that Raina and her sister Amara are on each other’s nerves constantly–with Raina ultimately shouting “Why did I ever ask for a sister?!”  Then we see flashback of Raina as a young girl desperately wanting a sister to play with.  And when Amara finally came–Raina was in love–until she realized that the baby would be sharing room with her.  There’s a joke about Amara meaning “immortal” in Sanskrit and “love” in Latin and her father muttering “it also means bitter one.”  And it turns out that Amara is a pretty cranky kid–especially where Raina is concerned. (more…)

Read Full Post »

 dancingSOUNDTRACK: deLILLOS-“Forelsket” (1987).

delilloKarl Ove mentions many bands in this book, but the deLillos are the only Norwegian band that he plays.  They sing in Norwegian and play sprightly, jangly guitar pop–they would fit in very well with some of the lighter alt bands from the late 80s and early 90s.

I have no idea what they’re singing about (well, the title translates to “love” so I guess I know what they are singing about.

The singer has a high, delicate voice and there’s some interesting harmonies.  I really like the way the song transitions from verse to chorus with the picked guitar notes–very catchy.

It comes from their second album, Før var det morsomt med sne  (Before it was fun in the snow), which along with their first was quite popular and was reissued with a bonus disc in the 90s.  Having said that I see that Amazon has one copy of the disc and no album cover listed.  Worse yet, I can’t find many other songs online (Spotify lists the album, but I can’t get it to play).

Sorry, deLillos (even searching for you gives us more Don DeLillo than you guys).

[READ: June 24, 2014] My Struggle Book Four

struggle4I started including the British edition page numbers because at my work we received both editions of the book, and I received the British one first so I grabbed it and started reading.  I noticed the page numbers were quite different (the British book is taller and the print is quite bigger, although this doesn’t explain why the previous books have fewer pages).

I had been interested in the differences between editions from the get go.  I had enjoyed the American editions, but I enjoyed reading this British edition more (bigger print?).  But when I noticed on one of the pages that the word “realise” was spelled as I typed it, it made me wonder if the American edition changed that to the American spelling.  [Actually, I see that Don Bartlett lives in Virginia, so perhaps he translates it into American first].  While I wasn’t about to go into a deep inspection of the topic, when I saw the American edition on a shelf at work, I had to do a little comparison.

And what I found out was that even though Don Bartlett is the (amazing) translator for both editions, someone (perhaps Bartlett himself?) is translating the American into British (or vice versa).  I looked at a couple of pages and noticed these changes from British to American:

  • BRITISH EDITION = AMERICAN EDITION
  • Pack it in, now = Give it up, now
  • roll-up = rollie [about hand rolled cigarettes]
  • looked daggers at = gave her a dirty look
  • a complete prat = completely useless
  • is that possible? = really?
  • to cook and wash up = cooking and doing the dishes
  • I had got = I’d gotten
  • had penned = had written
  • and yes, realised = realized.

Other than select phrases, every word is exactly the same.  So somebody goes through the books and changes them to British english idioms and spellings.  That’s fascinating.

I also see that this is the first book I had not read an excerpt from first.  Not that it would have made any difference as to whether I read the fourth one.  I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.

So book four is set in Håfjord, a town in Northern Norway near Finnsnes (a five hour flight away–okay I had no idea Norway was so big!).  Karl Ove is 18 and has decided to become a grade school teacher there for one year.  The tax breaks are great if you teach, and he plans to teach and write his masterpieces and then get out.  He has no interest in teaching, but the town is small (most grades are 3-7 students), so he figures it can’t be too hard.

As in most of Karl Ove’s books, the stories jump around and flash back and do not stay all in this one time, but it is largely set in this locale.

My first thought was that I have never read a story with as much semen (both nocturnal emission and premature ejaculation) in my life.  It is a strange take away from the book, but there it is.  Karl Ove is 18 and really wants to have sex for the first time.  About 3/4 of the way through the book he reveals that he never masturbated (it just never occurred to him, apparently, and at 18 he’s too old to start–what!?).  As such, he seems to have wet dreams every night.  And every time he gets near a woman, he has an orgasm too soon.  He is horny all the time–it’s a bit disconcerting.

And since I mentioned that, I don’t know if Karl Ove’s life is typical of Norway, but I am shocked by the number of women who take their clothes off around him (he may have never had sex, but he was about to on at least a half-dozen occasions).  And he says that all through school (from around age 13 and up) it was common place for the boys to lift up the girls’ shirts and kiss and or fondle their breasts.  It is mind-boggling to me.  And the 16 year olds all seem to be having sex all the time–this may be skewed from Karl Ove’s perspective, but that’s what I now believe happens in Norway.

But while sex is the main theme of the book–sex, sex sex, there is more to it.

Karl Ove’s parents have split up and his father has started drinking in earnest.  The dad has remarried and has just had a baby.  Incidentally, I was also shocked to read that Karl Ove’s father, who is an abusive stodgy old man who is cranky and mean and abusive and all the stuff that we read about in the other volumes was only 43 at the time that Karl Ove was 18.  So the old man who I pictured as a gray-haired curmudgeon in this book is actually younger than me.  Great.

In Håfjord, Karl Ove is teaching kids who range from age 13 to 16.  It’s disconcerting to read about him thinking lustful thoughts about his students, until he reminds us that for most of the students, he is only 2 years older than them.  I am pleased to say that he behaves himself (except in his mind) with all of the students.  There’s even a really interesting flash forward to eleven years later when he runs into two of them again.

He proves to be a pretty decent teacher it seems.  The kids mostly like him (the girls all think he is hot) and he is young and tries to make it fun (he himself hated school and everything about it).  He even seems to help out an awkward boy (although that is never resolved).  We see him teaching, trying to interact with the kids and generally being a pretty good guy.

Until the booze comes out.

For in addition to semen, this book is chock full of alcohol.  Before graduating from gymnas (high school), Karl Ove basically stopped caring about anything.  He spent most of his time drunk.  It is astonishing the amount of drinking he does–it’s practically like an Amish Rumspringa how crazy he goes.  But even in this retrospective look, he talks about how much he likes it, how it loosens him up and makes him less nervous.

But really he just spends most of his time drunk, hungover or sick. He even got into the hash scene for a while.  He was living with his mom at the time and she was appalled at the way he acted–especially when he threw a party which trashed their house.   She even kicked him out for a time.

He seemed to be over the drink in Håfjord, but it turns out that there’s precious little else to do except drink up there, especially when it grows dark for most of the day.  So there is much drinking–he only misses class once or twice because of it but he comes very close a lot.

The irony that he is appalled at his father’s drinking, while drinking so much himself, is apparently lost on him.

The other main preoccupation with Karl Ove is music.   He talks a lot about his great taste in music (he reminds me of me–a little insufferable).  Back when he was in gymnas, he spent a lot of time discussing his favorite bands and favorite songs.  He got a job (at 16) writing reviews for a local paper (holy crap, jealous!) and then later gets a job writing a column for another paper.  For the previous book I listed a lot of the bands he mentioned, and I wish I had written them down for this one.  U2 features prominently (this is 1987, so I’m guessing Joshua Tree), but also Talking Heads, a Scottish post-punk/new wave band The Associates and their album Sulk which he describes as “an utterly insane LP.”  he and his brother really like The Church and Simple Minds (before they got so commercial).  He also has a whole thread in which he makes connections with albums:

Briano Eno, for example, started in Roxy Music, released solo records, produced U2 and worked with Jon Hassell, David Byrne, David Bowie, and Robert Fripp; Robert Fripp played on Bowie’s Scary Monsters; Bowie produced Lou Reed, who came from Velvet Underground, and Iggy Pop, who came from the Stooges, while David Byrne was in Talking Heads, who on their best record, Remain in Light, used the guitarist Adrian Belew, who in turn played on several of Bowie’s records and was his favorite live guitarist for years. (64).

He also specifically raves about “The Great Curve” from the Talking Heads album, and of course, he raves about the first Led Zeppelin album as well.

Music is a huge part of his life (and he dresses accordingly too).  It’s unclear whether the kids think this is awesome or not, but he may be a bit too much for some of the locals.  The locals are mostly fishermen (which makes sense), and Karl Ove is a bit intimidated that he is so wimpy compared to them–one of the women even teases him about his tiny arms.

But his main focus is writing.  He writes a few shorts stories (to my knowledge he has never published any of them).  We see some excerpts and they seem fine–he fancies himself Hemingway.  But he also mentions a bunch of Norwegian authors (I love when he does that).  Sadly again, not too many of them have been translated into English.  [I really hope that some mega fan creates a database of all of the bands and authors he mentions].  He also talks briefly about his first novel which alludes to his time teaching here.  I happened to read a small summary of said novel (Out of the World) and feared that it spoiled what was going to happen.  But, in fact there does appear to be a difference between his fiction and non-fiction.

The book moves very quickly–from party to party, from failed sexual attempt to the next, even from his staying up all night long trying to write.  And most of the time he comes off as kind of a dick–he is also very self-critical, which somehow tempers that dickishness.

As with the other books I cannot figure out exactly why I am so addicted to his writing.  I brought the book home on Thursday night and finished it (all 548 pages of it) Monday night.  This really completes the picture of himself as he moved from childhood to adulthood and really lays the foundation for whatever is to come next.   Early in the book he talks about the books that he loved at that age, books that talk about the move from childhood to adulthood.  And thus, this book becomes something of a bildungsroman as well.  Although whether or not Karl Ove actually grew up at the end of this book will have to wait until volume 5 (which I have to assume is still another year away as there is no information about it online at all!).

For ease of searching, I include: Hafjord, For var det morsomt med sne.

 

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: MOGWAI-Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will (2011).

With an album title like that, you expect, well, some pretty loud music, right?

For this Mogwai album that’s not what you’ll get.  You’ll get lots of keyboards, and on the opening track “White Noise” you’ll get one of their prettiest melodies in ages.  Sure, there’s some distorted guitar by the end, but this is quite pretty.  “Mexican Grand Prix” opens with a computerized drums, keyboards, a propulsive bass line and whispered vocals.  This could be a dance hit.  What has Mogwai done with Stuart Braithwaite?  When the processed vocals start singing along (no idea what they’re saying), you can easily imagine a dancefloor packed with people for this track.

“Rano Pano” brings in the buzzy guitars again, both the first intro sounds and the noisier melody guitar, while “Death Rays” returns to the happy keyboard feel for a song that reminds me of Explosions in the Sky.  Once again, the melody is beautiful.  “San Pedro” brings guitars back in, with another killer melody and at 3 and a half minutes, it’s the shortest blast of rock.

“Letters to the Metro” opens with a spare piano melody and adds delicate washes throughout.  “George Square Thatcher Death Party” opens with some chanting (no idea what they’re saying) and then some of the loudest bass so far.  It’s another propulsive song, with some buzzy guitars way in the background, but the main force again is the keyboards.  This song sounds very 80s to me, with the processed computerized voice and the keyboard sound they use.  “How to Be a Werewolf” is 6 minutes. It’s a nice song but it doesn’t really grab me like the others.  “Too Raging to Cheers” has more 80s style keyboards (reminding me of Brian Eno or a PBS documentary about space) until about 2 and a half minutes in, when the Mogwai of old come crashes through–lots of cymbals and loud guitars.

“You’re Lionel Richie” is an 8 and a half minute song that opens with some French dialogue.  There’s a complicated guitar melody that plays for a time.  By about 5 minutes, the noise comes in–guitars, keyboards, cymbals, and while it doesn’t crescendo like Mogwai of old, it certainly gives you tastes of them.  This later section of the song brings in a good guitar melody that plays along until the slow fadeout at the end.

I continue to think of Mogwai as a loud, intense band, but their more recent output shows a band changing into something else.  Their melodies are still top notch and they definitely flirt with using noise in some of their songs, but they seems to be making more commercial sounding music (although realistically no band that makes almost exclusively instrumentals can ever be accused of selling out).

[READ: August 10, 2012] “Ghost Town Choir”

I have a read a few things from Ferris.  This story caught me completely by surprise.

The story is from the point of view of a boy who is living with his mom.  She is dating a man named Lawton.  Lawton had moved some of his stuff into their house, including his record collection–his prized possession.  They have a fight; he sings to her from outside their trailer, “What have you got planned tonight, Diana, he sang, though my mom’s name is Sheryl.”  She threw all of her dishes at him until he left.  He came back later that night calling her all kinds of unforgivable names.

Then the story shifts to Lawton’s point of view (both POVs are in first person, although they are quite distinct in style).  The boy goes to Lawton’s trailer even though he is not welcome anymore: “Your momma and me, we’re done.”  Lawton fancies himself a cowboy, and the backing singer in a cowboy band.

Back at home, Sheryl is on a cleaning binge–purging herself of everything.  When she gets to Lawton’s records, she is ready to toss them but the boy asks her not to.  She doesn’t listen and hauls them to the dumpster.  The boy grabs them later on and brings them to his fort in the forest.  That’s where he kept all of the things that the men left in his house after they were gone: “I wonder did they know about he cigarettes they’d never finish?” (more…)

Read Full Post »

propsectI recently received an e-mail from a nice person at Prospect (a British magazine).  The email asked if I’d like to review their magazine.  After being completely flattered, I said, “Of course!”  And then I waited nervously hoping that the magazine was good and that I wouldn’t have to say anything mean about it, because I would.  Oh yes, I would.

ctBut I don’t have to. They grabbed me right off the bat because the c & the t in the title are connected by a little filigree doodad.   I love typography, so that little flourish was a selling point (okay a superficial one, but I liked it immediately).

The “subtitle” of the magazine is “Good Writing About Things That Matter” and it is a totally apt description.  Prospect is a monthly magazine that covers all aspects of society: British, European, American and the world.  And, indeed, the writing is quite good.

In many ways it reminded me of The Walrus, a favorite magazine of mine.  (It’s a weird comparison since The Walrus has only been around for a few years, while Prospect has been around for about 13 (the November issue is number 164, so I’m guessing here), but it’s an apt comparison for its coverage: politics, culture, arts and more.

Because this was a new (to me)  magazine (and because I knew I’d be reviewing it), I decided to read every article.  There were a few that I thought I wouldn’t care much about.  But the writing totally grabbed me.  For instance, the article about Princess Diana (about whom I am indifferent) was fantastic.  It was cynical and funny and totally engaging.  And the same was true for just about every article in the magazine.

Normally I like to have at least two issues to refer to when reviewing.  So there may very well be things about this issue that are different from the others.  So, forgive, please, if I generalize incorrectly. (more…)

Read Full Post »