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Archive for the ‘Colin Stetson’ Category

sempleSOUNDTRACK: SISKIYOU-Nervous [CST109] (2015).

cst109covera_258x242This album begins with “Deserter,” in which a choir of children singing over a kind of spooky tone.  And then a loud rumbling bass and scratching on a guitar.  It’s quite different from the previous Siskiyou releases and outpaces the others by several steps.

Once Colin Huebert’s voice kicks in, that familiar Siskiyou sound returns—acoustic guitar and Huebert’s voice which is a mix between a whisper and Win Butler from Arcade Fire.  But “Deserter” features backing vocals and, perhaps most surprisingly, a wild baritone sax solo by Colin Stetson.  But it stays grounded with that cool rumbling bass line.

The second song “Bank Accounts and Dollar Bills (Give Peace a Chance)” opens with an echoed guitar likes some classic 1990s shoegaze music.  The vocals are a cool, intense whisper.  The verses are great and then the chorus adds a piano and his vocals rise into an impassioned wail.  The third song “Wasted Genius” adds a kind of steel drum sound that includes a great melody to the simple and slightly ominous verses.   The middle of the song switches to pummeling drums and a buzzy guitar solo before returning to the mellow verse.

“Violent Motion Pictures” has another cool whispered vocals and quiet guitars that get accented with a low bass and percussion.  There’s a neat section of falsetto vocals that remind me of Pink Floyd over a bouncy melody–before it returns to the verses.  It’s a wonderfully catchy, if brief, segment.  “Jesus in the 70s” has slow guitar lines and atmospheric keys.  “Oval Window” is a bouncy folk song (with a slightly creepy vocal over the top), but its even got a folksy kind of guitar line on it.

“Nervous” is a slow ballad.  “Imbecile Thoughts” is a fun song with stomping drums.  It has a cool ending that leads to the slow building, strings-included nearly 7 minute “Babylonian Proclivities.”  The disc ends with the 1 minute “Falling Down the Stairs.”

This album is really fantastic–an overlooked gem from 2015.

[READ: November 8, 2016] Today Will Be Different

I’ve really enjoyed Maria Semple’s books.  And this one was no exception.

She really conveys the hectic, overstimulated, over scheduled life of middle age parenting.  It helps that her stories are typically set around Seattle and that there’s a lot of excitement, tech and pop culture to throw around, too.

This is the story of a day in the life of Eleanor Flood.  Sarah pointed out, as I didn’t quite realize it, that the story takes place in one day (hence the title) although there are flashbacks that flesh out the story too.

Eleanor is, or perhaps “was” is the better verb, an artist.  She was lead animator (or something–it’s a little confusing) on the successful show Looper Wash.  When the show ended she received an advance to write a book/memoir.  That was eight years ago.

Things have been sprialling out of control for Eleanor for a while, but she vows that today will be different.  She will make a difference. (more…)

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decomposSOUNDTRACK: COLIN STETSON & SARAH NEUFELD-Never Were the Way She Was [CST113] (2015).

colinThis is kind of a show offy disc because both Stetson and Neufeld proudly state:  “All songs performed live (no overdubs/loops).”  And so we get Neufeld ’s cycling violin and Stetson’s cycling saxophone playing seemingly endless series of trills and melodies.

Despite Neufeld’s excellence on the instrument, the violin does play a kind of support role to Stetson’s sax (mostly because the sax is louder and more obtrusive).  But while the disc does sound like a Stetson disc, the violin adds some really interesting textures.  The disc opens with “The sun roars into view” and the violin playing a fast two note melody as the sax seems to rise up from the initial static slowly overtaking the song.  About 2 minutes in, the violin plays some loud trills that remind you it’s there, but when the sax quiets a few seconds later, the repetitive violin picks up the melody.  About half way through the 7 minute song the violin soars.   Around five minutes the sax drops away to a single bass note repeated while the violin takes some fanciful runs.  A voice, (not sure whose, but I assume Sarah’s) then soars above the music.

“Won’t be a thing to become” begins with a slow bass melody (with audible sax clicks).  The violin plays a similar melody—slightly different to accentuate the notes.  It’s a shorter piece (only 3 and a half minutes) and these shorter pieces tend to explore quieter moments in an interesting way.  “In the vespers” starts with some fast violin notes once the sax kicks in, it adds a new sense of urgency to the melody.  It’s all very pretty.  The middle turns into rapid fire violin alternating with some noisy sax.  As the song winds down, the fast sax notes continue but a bit more quietly and they are accented by long slow bows of the violin.

“And still they move” is a slow piece.  It’s primarily violin with the occasional sax note adding low end.  It’s barely 3 minutes long.  “With the dark hug of time” stays slow but with some incredibly deep rumbling bass notes underneath the squeaky violin.  It’s a cool and menacing sound.  There is a quiet section near the end which resolves as a low rumble and Stetson’s unusual vocalizations through his sax.

“The rest of us” is a kind of bouncing,thumping song with some high tense violin strings running along it.   I love the part where Stetson “sings” the four note discerning riff and the violin plays along with it—it’s the highlight of the disc for me.  The 8 minute “Never were the way she was” opens with a low rumble and feedbacky sounds.  The melody comes in slowly with some incredibly low notes from the sax.  After about 6 minutes the sax drops out leaving just the bowed violin.  The last two minutes are a pretty, somewhat mournful violin section with the sax providing low bass notes.

Flight is only a minute and a half and it opens with a gentle static/rain and slow notes.

Given these two great musicians, I expected a bit more from this.  Either Neufeld really keeping up with Stetson (rather than accompanying him, which i what it feels like) or perhaps Stetson playing differently to accommodate someone else.  I suspect I have just been spoiled by their other works to expect something mind blowing.

[READ: February 15, 2016] Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula

I have really enjoyed Andi Watson’s work in the past.  I haven’t read much from him lately, but when I was really into graphic novels twenty years ago, he was an artist I would always gravitate towards.

This is his first book for First Second (he used to do a lot of his books for Oni Pres).  It’s a romance (like many of his stories) but with a twist.

The story is set in the underworld.  Princess Decomposia is the overworked daughter of King Wulfrun.  The kind is old and infirm and never gets out of bed.  Indeed, he won’t even eat, declaring that any food is too much for his poor stomach.  Of course, he reads Wellness Weekly to get new ideas for broths to eat–but he never likes them.

Since he never gets out of his bed that leaves the Princes to do all of his diplomatic work.

She meets with the lycanthrope delegation and almost has a disaster on her hands because her father has fired the chef.  But when they see uncooked meat the werewolves are quite pleased. (more…)

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margoSOUNDTRACK: COLIN STETSON-New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light [CST092] (2013).

stetson3 After the raucous wildness of Stetson’s Vol. 2, I wasn’t expecting the first song to be so gentle.  Justin Vernon sings (with many layers of processing) the rather pretty opening track.  When I first heard it I didn’t like it—I wanted Stetson to do Stetson and it seemed like the track was all voice (nad very different from Stetson).  But Stetson is there, and he plays his normal unceasing melodies behind the voices.  The track seems especially light since it is followed by the aggressive “Hunted” which prominently features Stetson’s “voice” (he has a microphone on his throat or something to pick up his grunts), making an almost growling noise as he plays.   It’s worth repeating that Stetson does circular breathing, is able to play nonstop and can somehow to play different things at the same time (no overdubs) as well as vocalize in interesting ways.  You can also hear him taking breaths while he platys—the breaths are part of the percussive nature of his playing. It’s pretty amazing.  About four minutes in, the tone changes a bit, becoming a little sharper which seems to make the growl even more pronounced.

“High Above A Grey Green Sea” is a quieter song with more vocalizing, but this one feels mournful and lonely as opposed to intense and scary.  “In Mirrors” opens with a deep breath as he plays a slow quiet 90 second song full of unexpected high notes.

“Brute” is appropriately named as it sounds like he is forcing the song out of his sax.  He places mics on his sax so you can hear the clacking of the keys.  And that is readily apparent on this song which is full of clacking and clicking and grunting all the way.  After about a minute, a discordant melody comes in and establishes a tone that plays or a few bars until Justin Vernon returns, but this time with growled words.  It’s a pretty intense and rather scary track—and nothing like Bon Iver at all.

“Among The Sef (Righteous II)” is a brighter song—higher notes played in a very fast style.  There are some vocalized melodies as well.  But the main song is a rolling series of high notes.  “Who The Waves Are Roaring For (Hunted II)” opens with an interesting vocalized melody—he is really using that technique a lot on this record.  It also featured Justin Vernon.  “To See More Light” opens with slow echoed notes as he begins to build a melody out of a four note string.  He starts adding more and more notes.  The melody grows faster and faster until about five minutes when it starts to really slow down—dramatically so.  Around 7 minutes in, the song slows to a crawl, almost drunkenly it seems.  And the song feels like it has ended.  But Stetson has more on his mind.  The notes are held longer and shift more slowly.   Then the song starts to build up again with a different 4-note pattern that adds some squeaky feedback notes and then a catchy melody.  All 15 minute of this song done nonstop, pretty impressive.

“What Are They Doing In Heaven Today?” begins with voices from Vernon (in a softer voice than we’ve come to expect) as he sings a verse before the sax comes in.  “Bed” features some loud key clacking a great rhythmic pattern and some quiet notes from both the sax and his voice.

The final song is “Part Of Me Apart From You.” It really emphasize his “singing” the melody in his throat while playing the repeating lines on the sax.   The song seems to emphasize the lower notes in this song even as he “sings” higher notes.

[READ:October 20, 2016] The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo

The title of this book implies that it is a series, and I rather hope it is.  I loved the premise of this book.  Most of the characters were interesting and the mystery behind Margo herself was really cool.

I didn’t love Weing’s drawing style, though.  It really never resonated with me at all, and at times I found it off-putting.  Which is a shame since the story is so fun.

Charles is moving to Echo City and he hates it.  His mom tries to convince him that big cities are fun.  Plus, his dad is fixing up a big old hotel and they get to live there for free (suspension of disbelief there).  There are already some people living there, too.

Charles’ dad is hip and cool (he is seen with Dead Kennedys and Black Flag logo tattoos).  All of the things that Charles finds creepy about the place, his dad calls “character.”   Like the giant chandelier that was in a closet.  Whatever his dad says, Charles’s comment is simply, “This place is definitely haunted.” (more…)

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klezmerSOUNDTRACK: COLIN STETSON [CST073] “The Righteous Wrath of an Honorable Man” (2010).

stet7This is a 7″ release from Constellation, a kind of single from New History Warfare 2.  It has two tracks, “The righteous wrath of an honorable man” is such a good song that it deserved to be singled out like this.  It’s also amazing how short it is.

Side 2 is called “Judges (Damian Taylor Concretification Mix).”  This is a fascinating track because Taylor has “grabbed samples from throughout the album to create a musique concrète roundup of the entire record!”

It’s a strange listen as he picks certain things and repeats them–sometimes very quickly (like a skip) other times in slow modulations.  And then it just jumps somewhere else–again, like a skip.  There’s some menace and some sirens like sound juxtaposed with thudding bass moments.  And the middle samples all the clicking and banging from the keys on his sax.

I did like how he throws in a few notable riffs into the song but more as a repeated refrain than as part of the overall song.

This track is more interesting than enjoyable.  It’s unlikely to convince anyone of the genius of Stetson, but it’s an interesting listen.

[READ: June 10, 2016] Klezmer

I have read a bunch of books by Sfar because of First Second publishes a lot of his books (although apparently only a small fraction of the hundreds that he has written).  The frustrating thing about this book is that thee are apparently five volumes of this original series but it appears that there is no intention of publishing the rest (it has been ten years since this one came out, after all).

This story is meant to be very loosely based on something, although I’m not exactly clear what.  As with so many other stories, it was translated by Alexis Siegel. (more…)

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sardine6SOUNDTRACK0 Tonne Seize [CST bonus] (2016).

tonne0 Tonne Seize is a bonus compilation of three tracks each from Off World, Automatiste and Jason Sharp.  The collection is 41 minutes of music (not too shabby) and came with a pre-order of the three records (and is available on Soundcloud as well).

The first three songs are by Off World and the first two of those are remixes.  The original “Wonder Farm” is dominated by popping drum sounds.  There are some other sounds that go through the track but the base is mostly a kind of slow Asian melody.  The “Wonder Farm (Summer Crop)” mix removes those snaps and percussion entirely.  It focuses just on the music, which I have to say is far more enjoyable without the bangs.  “Primitive Streak” is a slow droning piece, while this compilation’s “Primitive Streak (Silver Mix)” doesn’t sound all that different.  It also removes the drums, and highlights the squeaky synth sounds and the overall drone tone.  It seems to emphasize and de-emphasize different instruments but otherwise sounds pretty similar. The final track  “Lost Meadow” is a pretty, delicate piano based piece with some twinkling of spacey synth notes.  It’s easily the prettiest piece.

The three Automatiste tracks do not quite follow the same naming convention as the actual disc, although the first track is called “Simultanéité 5.” It has slow beats and is basically two-note washes building on top of each other.  “Fragments continus” is a noisy piece with layered thudding drums (like heartbeats especially around the 1 minute mark) and drone noises that wash in and out.   About half way through what sounds like a melody appears amid the din, but it feels like it formed organically around the synths and drums which is pretty cool.   “Le Silence 3” opens with some jackhammer sounding drums and then almost easy listening synths.  The juxtaposition is interesting and by the end the song feels nicely dancey.

The final three songs are from Jason Sharp.  These three are quite different from his album because they really feature the saxophone to a larger degree.  “Plummeting Veins” opens with a heartbeat and some rumbling sax (that sounds like the opening of the Speed Racer TV show).   This track is under 2 minutes, the shortest he’s done by far, and the way the heartbeat speeds up as the sax plays some low rumbling notes is pretty cool. “Hear a Fading Cry” is a much longer number.  The heartbeat is quieter but the sax is much louder.  It sounds a lot like Colin Stetson in the low rumbling and noisy barking that the bass sax can produce.  It ends with some rather high-pitched squeaky sounds that I assume come from the sax, but which I can’t imagine coming from such a bass instrument.  It’s 7 minutes long although it takes almost 2 minutes to really get going.  And it swerves between loud and rumbling and then sort of menacing by the end,  “Ride On Into the Sweetening Dark” is perhaps the most conventional of Sharp’s songs.  It is a series of sax solo lines over a gentle tinkling backing drone.  Some of the solos lead to noisy wailing, but for the most part the line are pretty and jazzy.

It’s interesting how different these bonus tracks tend to be from the actual releases.  I enjoyed listening to these variants to see what else these artists are capable of.

[READ: April 9, 2016] Sardine in Outer Space 6

Sardine is a children’s book published by First Second.  It was originally published in France (and in French) and was translated by Sasha Watson.  There are six Sardine books out.

The inner flap says “No Grownups Allowed (Unless they’re pirates or space adventurers).”  This is the final Sardine book.  And while I didn’t enjoy the first book much, by now I’m sorry to see the series end.

This book also has the fewest stories in it (only 9). (more…)

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persiaSOUNDTRACK: SALTLAND-I Thought It Was Us But It Was All Of Us [CST094] (2013).

Piles of salt mined by local residents sit on the surface of the world's largest salt flats, the Salar de Uyuni, near the village of Colchani November 20, 2007. Bolivian airlines Aerosur and the Canedos family inaugurated this week the first regular flights of its renovated Douglas DC-3S, or Super DC-3, to bring tourists to the Salar, one of the world's natural wonders, in a project that the airline considers a "trip back in time." Picture taken November 20, 2007. REUTERS/David Mercado (BOLIVIA)Becky Foon, who is one of the main creators of Esmerine has another band on Constellation called Saltland.  The big difference with this band is that she sings as well.  And that this album is much more mellow–full of droning sections and a slow, deep bass that keeps the songs moving along.

This disc is very mellow, with lots of slow beats and electronica sprinkled around it.  When Foon sings, she sings in a deliciously slow voice.  So this album is a good one for chilling out.

The disc opens with “Golden Alley” which has some big slow bass notes and strings urging the song along.   When she begins singing, he voice is deep and hushed–an almost whispered sound that feels practically percussive.  There are words, but her voice also works as part of the music.  A bit of a shift in the music occurs near the end that makes it seem like it’s going to be a long song–especially when Colin Stetson starts blowing some saxophone notes–but it actually just signals the end.

“I Thought It Was Us” is an instrumental which features harmonium and cello.  It also has some interesting noises from Stetson.  About a minute and a half in, it shifts to a really catchy melody that runs through much of the rest of the song while the saxophone solo takes off.  It’s a highlight.

“Treehouse Schemes” really stands out as something familiar.  I don’t know if it sounds like something else or if Foon’s voice is so much more distinctive.  But I really like this track a lot.  It has a slow bass line and some stretched out guitars and then Foon sings a simple and lovely melody line.

“Unholy” is a bit more droney with some well used kalimba and Foon’s voice providing mostly wordless notes.  I really like the way at about a minute and a half, fast drums come in and seem to push the song faster, although the tempo never actually changes.  Theres some great tension and then a nice denouement.

“But It Was All of Us” is another slow droning instrumental, with some wordless vocals and some occasional bass notes. It feels almost like Western movie but with a Middle Eastern feel, a Middle Eastern Western?

“Colour the Night Sky” has some quiet, heavily distorted vocals that swirl with the pulsing beat of the drums and bass.   And then about midway through there’s a clean section where the vocals shine through the din, with the words “I have a fairy tale that I read when I’m feeling down.”

“ICA” has some quiet cello swirls and low voices.  And the album ends on a highlight with “Hearts Mind.”  It’s another one with a prominent bass while swirls of sounds float around Foon’s vocals.   It’s the last-minute or so Foon’s multitracked voices create some lovely ascending ooohss.

This album feel s a lot longer than its 38 minutes, possibly because most of the songs are quite long.  It’s definitely a mood creating album, although not as despairing as the album cover hints at.

[READ:February 21, 2016] Prince of Persia

The evolution of this graphic novel is pretty fascinating.  And it is one I was completely unfamiliar with since I’m not a gamer.

Back in the 1980s Jordan Mechner created a video game called Prince of Persia.  It was popular and there was a sequel.  And then it kind of went away for a while, but people always loved it so then it came back again as a new series of games.  And a film (released in 2010).  Finally in, 2004 First Second (shoutout to #10yearsof01) contacted Mechner about making a story (not the same story as his games) into a graphic novel.  Mechner has always wanted to make a comic book (he had all the gear before he switches over to video games.  And here it is.

From what I gather, Mechner didn’t really write this story so much as inspire it (and I’m sure he had editorial control or whatever).  The book was written by A.B. Sina.  And it is a new story based on the nebulous ideas of the universe that Mechner had created.

I had actually not even heard of the video game (or the movie) so this was all lost on me. But that’s fine and is not necessary for enjoyment of the book.  Although I admit I found the story a little confusing (not because of not knowing the games), although by the end the way the stories linked up was pretty cool.

This story is set in two different eras (the 9th century and another prince in the 13th century) and has two stories paralleling each other.  The two men of the story are linked by a prophecy.  The story opens with Guiv, a (9th century) prince who had attempted to kill his brother Layth, fleeing the city of Marv after escaping death from Layth’s guards. The story then jumps to a young (13th century) woman, Shirin, who flees the city of Marv in an attempt to escape her father. She soon meets up with Ferdos,

Since Guiv was nearly killed by his brother he leaves the city.  He walks into the mountain where he is accompanied by a spirit animal (a peacock) and is able to fend off lions and boars until he encounters a door.  But inside is a pit made of human skeletons.

I was more interested in the story of Shirin.  She is a rebellious woman who would rather do gymnastic dances than hip shaking ones.  So she cuts her hair and leaves her palace behind.  Frankly her story of learning how rough things are outside of the palace was more interesting than the story of the men.   I guess it is also kind of that we follow her for many pages before she meets Ferdos and then his story takes over.  Not to mention, he seems like he’s just crazy for a while.

Ferdos is full of stories about Layth and Guiv and he imagines that he and Shirin will reprise the roles of these past rulers (Shirin will be Guian, the sister/lover–I’m a little unclear about that).

Eventually we learn that Ferdos has ties to the city of Marv, and that his story is linked to the past in unexpected ways.

The end o the story goes very fast with intense pacing and crossing of stories.  It definitely demands careful reading and maybe even a second reading, to see how the stories line up.

Th one great thing about the book is the way the two story lines are never visually confused–the color palates change depending on the century and the main characters all look different enough (especially Shrin, who looks incredibly sexy with her short hair and different colored eyes).

It’s a really clever and intricate story.   I wonder what fans of the game thought of it.

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balladSOUNDTRACK: MOON HOOCH-“Number 9” (2011).

moonI don’t love the saxophone in rock music.  In fact, I often find the saxophone to be the single source of cheese in a lot of good music.  And yet when a saxophone is done right–Colin Stetson, John Zorn, Morphine, it can be an awesome instrument.

What about two saxophones?  And only a drummer with them?  Well, that’s Moon Hooch.  They play a bass saxophone and a squawking tenor (I guess) saxophone.  And, more like Morphine of the above bands they play fairly heavy riff rock songs like “Number 9.”  But these songs also make you move–dance, tap your foot, whatever it is.  After just a few notes, you’ll be hooked.

There’s not too much more to say about this song.  With the opening sounds of a subway platform, this song really sounds like a couple of guys busking o the platform, but man, it’s much more than that.  There’s some excellent drum work keeping this song grounded, but the stars are the two saxophones played off of each other.  There’s no words, just horns.  Get moving!

[READ: March 15, 2014] Ballad

This is a beautiful and fascinating book.  It is a children’s book but it demands some close reading.  And yet there aren’t all that many words in the book.  It is the design of the book that is the “selling point.”

The story is a fairly simple one (although I admit I found it a little confusing).  There is a preface which explains that the story is about a child who goes home the same way every day.  And yet suddenly his whole world balloons around him.  [And yet there is no child in the book].  Chapter 1 begins with a paragraph explanation that the school clock has stopped and no one seems to care.

After that first page, each subsequent page has a (nearly) full page image and one or two words underneath it (the script is also charming).  And so we see the school, the street, the forest, home.  Each new chapter works in the same fashion—a small paragraph explaining the setup and then several pages of pictures—each picture (the school, the forest) is exactly the same (they look silk screened) with the same caption underneath (although in subsequent chapters they are modified somewhat).  Chapter 3 introduces us to a stranger and, even more unsettling, bandits and a witch. (more…)

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snSOUNDTRACK: FORGET ALL THAT AND JUST WAIL: New Music That Orbits Around Jazz (compilation The Believer July/August 2013).

bel This compilation came as a digital download with The Believer’s 2013 Music Issue (you need to get a physical copy of the issue to get the download code). Ross Simonini, the compiler, explains that he used to like jazz, but that he really doesn’t anymore.  And he finds himself attracted to these pieces that hover around jazz but which really aren’t jazz.  You can read Simonini’s thoughtful comments about all of these tracks here).  I enjoyed this compilation quite a lot and am considering getting a  few of these discs, or at least investigating them further.  And that’s want you want from a compilation.

COLIN STETSON-“The Righteous Wrath if an Honorable Man”
Any compilation that opens with Colin Stetson is okay with me.  This track was my introduction to the man last year and I still love it, in all of its insanity.

KARRIEM RIGGINS-“Double Trouble” is only 2 minutes long.  It’s got flutes and vibraphones and is super cool and retro sounding.  I really like it, although this track ends abruptly and I can’t decide if the actual song does or if it was cut short for the disc.

THUNDERCAT-“For Love  I Came” has some echoey keyboards and some great bass lines and cool/cheesy keyboard lines (it all sounds so gloriously 70s).  When the vocals come in, the whole track feels like Yes if Yes were inspired by jazz instead of classical (and had no drums—until about 2 minutes when the drums kick in and the song takes off and bass solo makes it very Yes-like).

THE BEN MONDER TRIO-“Red Shifts” is a classic style jazz guitar workout—the echoed effect is very jazzy.  And yet there is something very angular about the playing that keeps it from sounding smooth.   It’s a great track (which once again seems to get cut off very abruptly).

DAWN OF MIDI-“Ymir” is another trio—piano bass and drums.  The piano is muted (the pianist puts his hand on the strings) which makes it sound like another percussive instrument while it is also creating  the melody.  It’s very cool.  And I like the way over the 8 or so minutes the melody changes slightly, giving it a new sound almost accidentally.

GLOWS IN THE DARK-“Up and Down” starts as a fast but quiet guitar piece with some cool subtle horns over the top.  It features a rap by Count Bass D which i do not care for (The “I’m pissed/L.L. Cool J” verse is really awkward).  This is the first track on the disc that i really don’t like, which is a shame because the music is really cool.

STEVE RAEGELE-“Traingle (Daedalus)” is a weird, cool experimental sounding track.  Sounds are overlaid on each other with a lot of echoing that gives it a very dense structure.  Whether or not this is jazz is hard to say but it’s very intriguing.

MARY HALVORSON QUINTET-“Sea Cut Like Snow (No. 26)” Halvorson is a guitarist and this live track features some of the most traditional jazz on the compilation.  The song has cool melodies and some nice improvsiing (on various instruments).  It runs a little long though (I wish this had been truncated rather than the earlier ones) but it’s enjoyable.

FLYING LOTUS-“German Haircut” this is an electronically manipulated pastiche of songs with a sax solos placed over the top.  It’s an interesting concoction.

CHRIS CORSANO-“Famously Short Arms”  This is one of the most amazing drum videos I’ve ever seen–it is so creative and original.  As an audio track it is basically a  drum solo, but watching him and what he does on the drums is really mind expanding.

MATANA ROBERTS-“lulla/bye”  I have this track as well (two tracks from Constellation here).  It’s full of saxophones and longing in the singing.  It’s hard to define but it’s very evocative.

MICROKINGDOM-“Peppermint Crab” This is a weird and wild piece.  It opens with some manipulated and spacey vibes and electronics and then gets assaulted by a wild and screaming sax solo that would make John Zorn proud.

DIAMOND TERRIFIER-“Kill the Self That Wants to Kill Yourself” This song opens with some simple keyboard chords and some odd unsettling sounds thrown over them (waves of static and squeaking saxophone). Then comes some wild soloing.

This is a solid compilation of jazz-like music.  It veers into more extreme forms of jazz and will certainly alienate some listeners, but it’s an introduction to what else is out there on the fringes.

[READ: August 8, 2013] Shakespeare’s Nigga

The artistic director of the Obsidian Theatre Company (which put on this play) explains in the intro that with a title like that, you’re going to get attention.  In fact he initially said that they couldn’t use that title, because it was too much.  But they changed their mind because it really was…right.

This story looks at the two most prominent black men in Shakespeare: Othello (the Moorish general who is ruled by violent emotion) and Aaron (a Moorish slave who is basically pure evil—in Titus Andronicus).  As the artistic development coordinator of the Obsidian Theater says, Shakespeare is the authority on writing characters, thus these two men have become entwined in Black masculinity.  Which is a shame because “Moor” could basically be anyone who did not live in Europe and because Shakespeare likely didn’t know any black people (except as slaves).  It’s not really a good sample.

Playwright Joseph Jomo Pierre doesn’t seek to rectify this or upend this or decry Shakespeare.  What he does is much more subtle and much more powerful.

There are five characters in the play: Othello, Aaron, Tyrus (an older black male), Shakespeare and Judith (Shakespeare’s daughter).  Shakespeare and Othello are comrades (I won’t say friends, but it seems like Shakespeare relies on Othello for protection and advice).  Meanwhile, Aaron has tried to escape from his slavery and is currently chained up and beaten (usually by Othello). (more…)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The typefaces are: (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: COLIN STETSON-Live at All Tomorrow’s Parties, October 4, 2011 (2011).

In addition to playing SXSW, Colin Stetson also played All Tomorrow’s Parties, and NPR was there.  Unlike with SXSW, this set appears to be full length (about 50 minutes–which is a pretty amazing amount of time for him to blow that horn).  Like SXSW (and the album) Stetston starts with “Awake on Foreign Shores” and “Judges.”  What I love about this recording is that after Stetson finishes “Judges” a guy in the audience shouts (in a voice of total amazement) “That shit was off the hook!”  And he is right.  It’s not even worth me going into how amazing Steston is once again (check previous posts for  that), but man, just look at the size of that horn he’s playing (seriously, click on the link to see it bigger).

Stetson plays a few more songs from New History Warfare, Vol. 2: Judges like “The Righteous Wrath of an Honorable Man” (which is outstanding) and “A Dream of Water” (which works without Laurie Anderson, although he does say he’s sorry she’s not there).  He also introduces two news songs “Hunted 1” and “Hunted 2” which show new levels and new styles that Stetson employs.

This is a remarkable set, and Steston is clearly in his element (and the crowd is rapt).  The only problem I have is the recording level.  It must be very difficult to maintain recording levels for Stetson’s brand of noise–his louds are really loud–but you can’t hear him talk at all.  And most of the time, the introductions to his songs are worth hearing.  I’m sure if they tried to get the speaking level a little louder the music would have sacrificed though, so I think they made the right choice–I only wish there was a transcript available.

[READ: October 31, 2011] The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Apparently it’s pronounced, “Wow”, by the way.

Because of my new job, I don’t have a  full hour of lunch-time reading like I used to.  And so this book took considerably longer than I intended.  However, once I set aside some time to read it, I flew through the book.

I’m going to get this part out of the way because I was thinking about it throughout the book and I want to mention it without having it bog down the post.  This story reminded me a lot of Roberto Bolaño.  On the surface, sure this is because they are both writers from “Central America” (Diaz is originally from the Dominican Republic but moved to the US, while Bolaño is originally from Chile but moved to Mexico and then Spain).   But I’m not really talking about their origins so much as the style of storytelling.

Without going into a lot of Bolaño here, I’ll just say that Bolaño tends to write very detailed character studies–stories that follow one person throughout his whole life on something of a fruitless quest.  And the details of that person’s life include information about family members and distant relatives.  Further, Bolaño has written about the brutalities of both Chile and Mexico and how a person can survive in such a place.  Similarly, Díaz follows the life of Oscar and his extended family and he talks about the brutalities of the Dominican Republic.

This is in no way to suggest that there is any connection between the two writers. I mean, The Savage Detectives came out in the States in 2007 (same years as Oscar Wao) and while he certainly could have read it in Spanish, I have no evidence that he did (and as I recently found out, the first draft of the Oscar story was written in 2000).  Again, the parallels are only from my reading and have nothing to do with Díaz himself.

Okay, now that that’s out of my system…

This is the story of Oscar de Leon.  But more than that, this is the story of a fukú–a curse that befalls the de Leon family and follows them through several generations.  Oscar is the youngest member of the family and the person whom the narrator knows best.  So we see this fukú as it impacts Oscar.  And although the book is ostensibly about Oscar, it is about much more.

Oscar was born in Paterson, NJ (the town next to where I grew up!) and went to Don Bosco Tech High School (where many of my friends went).  Oscar is Dominican (his mother is from the DR, but he and his sister were born in NJ), but unlike every other Dominican male, Oscar is totally uncool, into geeky sci-fi and D&D and is clearly destined to be a virgin because he is fat with terrible hair and no social skills.

And, (no spoiler), as the title states, his life will be short. (more…)

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