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Archive for the ‘Godspeed You Black Emperor’ Category

[ATTENDED: March 14, 2018] Godspeed You! Black Emperor

Back in 2000, I saw Godspeed You Black Emperor at Maxwell’s in Hoboken.  My friend Lar was in from Ireland and he went to the show with me, which was pretty awesome.

It is one of the most memorable shows of my early concert-going experience.  Which is possibly why I waited 18 years to see them again.

Even though my friends Liz and Eleanor (who have seen them many times) told me to join them in the balcony, to close my eyes and drift to the music, I’m a close-up guy and I wanted to be a part of the show.

The band had a semicircle of chairs on stage.  I should have realized from the get-go that as soon as someone sat in one of them he would basically be blocking everything for me, but I didn’t think it through.

So the show began with “Hope Drone,” which is, as suggested, a drone.  (more…)

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[ATTENDED: March 14, 2018] Liberty / Tashi Dorji Duo

I had never heard of Liberty / Tashi Dorji Duo when I saw they were opening for Godspeed You Black Emperor.   I also didn’t know if Liberty was a part of the duo or even if Liberty was a second opening act.

Well, it turns out that Tashi Dorji is a guitarist who often plays by himself.  But for this show he was with “the elusive Danish saxophonist LIBERTY (Mette Rasmussen).”

So what did this mean for the show?  Well, a brief search on Dorji revealed:

Tashi Dorji was born and raised in Bhutan, on the eastern side of the Himalayas. Residing in Asheville since 2000 and soaking up a vast array of music. Along the way, Dorji developed a playing style unbound by tradition, yet with a direct line to intuitive artistry. All references break loose during his playing, as Dorji keys into his own inner world.

and that

Liberty is a saxophone player whose music is defining a unique balance of uproar and beauty. Her ability to move between the often strict confines of genres and explore the elements makes her presence highly powerful. She has encapsulated her own personal vision of acoustic music, by amplification expanding her range in dynamics and rocketing a more prosaic stem.

So. (more…)

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landSOUNDTRACK: SONG OF THE SILENT LAND [CST2 COMP] (2004).

silentlandThis is a great compilation of Constellation artists from 2004 and earlier.  What makes it so good is that 13 of the 14 songs are released here for the first time.  So it works not only as a sampler of the labels artists, it also works as a great rarities collection.

ELIZABETH ANKA VAJAGIC-“The Sky Lay Still” [stripped down version of album song].  This song starts with slow echoing guitars and Elizabeth’s voice which sounds a bit like Carla Bozulich (but cleaner).  Two minutes in, it shifts tones to an awesomely catchy section with great vocals.

DO MAKE SAY THINK-“Winter Hymn Winter Hymn Winter Hymn”   This is the entire Winter Hymn … album remixed into a 5 minute track.  I’ve often complained that I dislike remixes but this one is great.  It includes some big guitar chords, some quiet drums, some notes and maybe gives you a feel of the album, but maybe not.  The end of the track plays some very fast heavy chords and then gets sped up out of existence.

EXHAUST-“Wool Fever Dub” [from their self-released cassette]  This song has a big thumping beat and some cool echoed harmonics on the guitar. This basic song structure runs through a 3 minute instrumental with a different “chorus” and some intense drumming at the end.

HANGEDUP-“(Re)View From The Ground (remix)”  This is a very catchy, fun remix.  Noisy clattering drums and all kinds of feedback squalls keep this propulsive track moving—this is my kind of dance remix.

BLACK OX ORKESTAR-“Toyte Goyes In Shineln”  This track comes from their album Ver Tanzt? And is one of my favorite of their songs from this disc.  An Acoustic guitar and bass play a simple melody over what I assume is quiet Hebrew singing.

SACKVILLE-“This Machine”  This is an unreleased track from the band.  It is a simple downbeat folk song with a really catchy chorus.  I like Sackville a lot but haven’t mentioned their full length yet–coming soon.

SILVER MT. ZION-“Iron Bridge To Thunder Bay” This is an unreleased track from the Rusted Satellites session, it begins with squealing feedback that slowly changes pitch until the thudding drums and bass come in.  They play a rumbling rhythm underneath the otherwise noisy sounds.  After 6 minutes, the song ends in squalls of feedback until the last minute just echoes until the end.

SOFA-“String Of Lights” [from the self released cassette].  I really like Sofa and wish they’d released more music.  This song actually sounds a bit like the Black Ox Orkestar song above-a- slow broody acoustic piece, but I love the way the chorus brightens the song.

POLMO POLPO-“Dreaming (…Again)”  This track is described as “constructed of materials from the Like Hearts Swelling sessions”  It’s a pretty, upbeat song with some slide guitars and a groovy rhythm.

RE: “Slippage” [unreleased track from the Mnant sessions]  This song has clanging percussion and oscillating keyboards which make this soundscape interesting and compelling.

FLY PAN AM-“Tres Tres ‘Avant'” is an improvisation with Tim Hecker and Christof Migone.  There’s a funky bass and drums with some groovy keyboards.

1-SPEED BIKE-“Fair Warning” [ remix of “New Blue Monday” from their album].  The track starts with a person saying “Okay we’ll call this one Fair Warning.”  You can hear the music (primarily the guitar echoed) and the riff from New Order’s “Blue Monday” and then he starts reciting passages in a great Canadian accent: “heroin crop in Afghanistan is 3 times higher this year than last year because the Taliban got taken out and replaced with the Americans.”  “We don’t want funerals because people like to party too much, Capice?”  The second half of the song is a lot of swirling statics and noise with repeated notes.

FRANKIE SPARO-“See My Film” [working mix of an unreleased song].  This song has a sprinkling of guitar notes and Sparo’s mellow but rough voice singing a cool melody.  The addition of a violin melody really elevates the song.  The end is even better as he adds another vocal line and some da das making it even catchier.

GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR-“Outro” This is a live performance of a concert finale recorded in France on 14 May 2003.  This slow song opens with glockenspiel and strings–a slow, pretty melody that evolves over 7 minutes to add a bigger string section.  The last 2 minutes include a very nice violin solo that plays over the top of the rest of the band.  GYBE has never officially released a live album, so this is a good opportunity to hear what they can do live.

[READ: August 20, 2016] Land

This is a book about Anthony Gormley’s five statues on Landmark Trust Property.

The five statues in this book are life-sized cast iron sculptures installed in five Landmark Trust sites across the British Isles from May 2015 to May 2016.  Saddell Bay, Mull of Kintyre; South West Point, Lundy; Clavell Tower, Kimmeridge Bay; Martello Tower, Aldeburgh, and Lengthsman’s Cottage, Lowsonford.

The sculptures are by Antony Gormley, the photos of the sculptures are by Clare Richardson and the text is by Jeanette Winterson.  Winterson is the only person I’d heard of in this book but as soon as I flipped through the pages, I was instantly struck by the sculptures.

Gormley works with the human form in very heavy sculptural designs.  There’s another book about his work called Human that shows even more of his sculptures. (more…)

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c28SOUNDTRACK: HISS TRACKS-Shortwave Nights [CST104] (2014).

hissThe Hiss Tracks album begins with a rumbling roiling and yes a kind of hissing sound.  There was a moment of concern that this would be literally 40 minutes of static . But no, there are some interesting electronic blips and phrases amidst he roiling rumble.

Some context about this band from the Constellation site:

Hiss Tracts is an ongoing collaboration between “sound sculptors” David Bryant and Kevin Doria. Both players are known for their work within various strains of drone-inflected and experimental music: Bryant as a member of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Set Fire To Flames, Doria as a member of Growing and for his solo work as Total Life.

Hiss Tracts opens new collaborative, procedural and narrative pathways for these fine musicians to continue exploring soundscape-based composition and production. Both are guitar players, and the electric guitar figures as both recognizable and unrecognizable source instrument on Shortwave Nights, but the deployment of a wide range of additional analog sources and signals ensures that there is no confusing this for a guitar-based drone, noise or post-rock record.

So there you have it.  Once the rumble of that first song, ‘…shortwave nights,” dissipates there are some ringing guitar sounds quietly repeating amid a low static and other sounds.   The song ends with some dissonant guitar notes.  It’s eight minutes in total and has the feeling of an ambient soundtrack, but not a relaxing one or of background music.

“half-speed addict starts with broken wollensak” does indeed begin slowly, at about half-speed, with more rumbling sounds.  The song speeds up at the end, with muffled sounds keeping a very fast pace and a keyboard note rings out as the song finishes.  “slowed rugs” has a kind of one note drone while some vibrating drones continue over it—it’s a gentle electronic sound manipulation.   The oscillating notes fold in on themselves and mutate into some thing else.  As the song nears its end, a repeated series of unusual notes seems to rise from the din.

“drake motel / “9 gold cadillacs”” is a one minute interstitial that opens and closes with someone playing a harmonica.  The player offers it to someone else and then the rest is a series of statements from an unnamed person:

I would never put my mouth on something that you had put your mouth on.
The more you love people the worse they treat you I am so tired of it.
My daddy spent million of dollars trying to by a friend and he died without one.
You can give a sumbitch a million dollars cash tax-free and tomorrow they wouldn’t give you a cracker if you were starving to death.  That is a bible prophecy.

“windpipe gtrs.” sounds like a bunch of didgeridoos trying to overtake each other.  “halo getters” is an ominous piece, with more of that rumbling static and some portentous chords over the top.  The five-minute song doesn’t change much although about a minute in some guitars ring out sounding very outer spacey.  The song repeats and eventually warbles to and end which somehow feels warmer than the rest, like little explosions of quiet sound which almost sound like car horns.

“for the transient projectionist” opens with ringing bells/gongs.  After a few minutes of this peaceful sound, some music bubbles up—waves of warm keyboards and washes of mild static.  It seems to have a natural progression before ending.

“ahhh-weee dictaphone” is a 41 second interstitial of what sounds like vocal goofing around.  “test recording at trembling city” has mechanical ringing tones coming on in waves.  The song builds in intensity as it sounds almost like a high-speed-something about to crash, or a siren going off.  It is rather unsettling.  “beijing bullhorn / dopplered light” is mostly staticy radio and voices muttering under some gentle washes of chords.   It is a relatively pretty ending to a somewhat unsettling disc.

The instruments included on the disc include: guitar, tape machine, piano, mellotron, portasound, bowls, field recordings, oscillators, sampler, synthesizer

This is a pretty esoteric disc that many people won’t enjoy, but if you like experimental ambient textures, it’s worth a listen.

[READ: March 10, 2016]  “Undecided”

After last night’s debate, in which evidently there are some 36% of the population undecided about whom to vote for, here’s a political piece from the 2008 election.  What I especially loved about this one was just how relevant it all seemed 8 years later.  The “undecided” voters aren’t getting as much airtime yet, but one wonders how poll numbers can shift when the candidates are so radially different.  I recall in the 2008 election how people seemed genuinely undecided about the two candidates and Sedaris (and myself and many others) just ask: HUH?.

Sedaris notes how the undecideds get interviewed about being undecided and they all look “very happy to be on TV.” And oh dear, they just can’t make up their minds.

“I look at these people and can’t quite believe that they exist.  Are they professional actors? I wonder or are they simply laymen who want a lot of attention?”

And then he says to imagine their perspective as if you were on an airplane.  The attendant brings the food cart over and in what may have been the most apt analogy:

Can I interest you in the chicken? she asks.  Or would you prefer the platter of shit with bits of broken glass in it?

To follow through he says that being undecided is to “pause for a moment and then ask how the chicken is cooked.” (more…)

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breachSOUNDTRACK: THE SILVER MT. ZION ORCHESTRA & TRA-LA-LA BAND (WITH CHOIR)-“This Is Our Punk-Rock,” Thee Rusted Satellites Gather + Sing, [CST027] (2003).

MtzionthisisourThis album is a pretty massive change for A Silver Mt Zion.  It both brings this band closer to their alter ego GYBE but also pushes them further away at the same time.  How?  Well, musically, this album sounds a lot more like GYBE–epic songs all over ten minutes with lots of strings and soaring moments.  But the big difference now is that every song has vocals (hence the new title of the band).  The line up has stayed the same although they have many guests for the choir.  The choir is referred to on the album as Thee Rusted Satellite Choir.

“Sow Some Lonesome Corner So Many Flowers Bloom” opens the disc with someone counting of “1234… 12345678.”   And then a simple guitar and bass melody starts up.  The song sounds fairly conventional, in fact.  And then the choir kicks in.  Many many voices singing, “Ahhhh.”  And then a solo voice continues the “Ahhhs” in another pitch while the choir continues.   I love this whole introduction–the various keys the voices are in, how the bass voices start singing “fa fa fa la la so” and on and on in varying formats.  The choir (a bunch of friends and bandmates) sounds great–not perfect but perfect for this song.  This lasts for about 7 minutes before the choir fades and the rest of the song begins with a swelling of droning music.  Strings come in and the song stays quiet for a couple of minutes before the guitar riff from the beginning returns this time with string accompaniment instead of voices.   Around 12 minutes the strings change to something else–more grandiose music which sounds amazing.  About a minute later the drums begin and the song takes on a whole new style.  This more rocking sound continues until the end of the song.  It’s awesome.

“Babylon Was Built on Fire/StarsNoStars” opens with staccato echoed guitars (it also feels a bit like Pink Floyd).  There’s ambient washes of guitars that float around, but the whole things sounds very trippy (not a sound I associate with this band).  About six minutes in, Efrim begins singing.  This is the first time he’s sung quite so loudly and clearly.  His voice is anguished and a bit harsh, but it works pretty well with the violins and the cool bassline that walks throughout the song.  With about 4 minutes left, the music changes direction.  The guitar starts playing a single note, growing louder and louder as the strings surround the guitar and voice: “Citizens in their homes and missiles in their holes.”  Efrim (I assume) sings a round with himself as more and more lines of text fill the song.  Although his voice doesn’t sound radically different in each one, he does adjust volume and tone enough to make it sound pretty interesting.

“American Motor over Smoldered Field” is the shortest song on the disc at 12 minutes.  It begins with a simple acoustic guitar melody (quite pretty) and Efrim singing over it (I appreciate the different vocal styles in this song).  It’s really quite a compelling song as that guitar continues and the strings come in behind it.  Around four minutes in, the drums crash and the song takes off.  The strings change and the song becomes very intense–faster and louder.  This lasts about three minutes before a staccato guitar picks up and choral voices are heard way in the background.  The voices (all Efrim, I believe) build and build as the guitar maintains.  Around nine minutes the strings and guitars change and the song flows as a new vocal line joins in “this fence around your garden won’t keep the ice from falling.”

The final song, the 14 minute “Goodbye Desolate Railyard” also opens with acoustic guitar and Efrim’s vocals. The song (an elegy for a dying city) remain simple–acoustic guitar, simple violin and bass notes.   The song is repetitive, lulling the listener into as sense of contentment.  Although at around 5 minutes, the violins swell and become a little unpleasant–kind of harsh and a little staticky.  This continues for some 5 minutes until it is replaced by the rather close up sound of a freight train going slowly down a track.  After two minutes of this, the acoustic guitar returns with Efrim singing (in a very Neil Young kind of voice) “every body gets a little lost sometimes.”  The full choir joins in to sing these final words for a several rounds before fading out.

[READ: May 10, 2016] Breach Point

Steve and I are pals of Facebook.  If I may wax jealous for a minute, Steve has done everything that I’d ever wanted to do when I was younger–he’s been in a band (cuppa joe–they released several really good albums); he’s a graphic designer, something I always imagined being when I grew up; and now he has written a novel.  So, yes, basically I hate Steve.  Except that, of course, I don’t hate Steve.

I hate him even less because this book is not only really good, but it has brought back a part of my childhood that I had forgotten about.

When I (and anyone else who grew up in the New Jersey area in the 70s) was a kid, there were always commercials for Brigantine Castle in Brigantine NJ.  The commercials scared the hell out of me and I was always terrified to go to this place.  I knew it was down the shore but never exactly where.  And there were times when we drove to the shore and I was convinced we were going to the castle instead (totally false, Brigantine was way further north than any beach we would have gone to).  And then Brigantine Castle burned down.  Interestingly, after watching these commercials again coupled with The Haunted Mansion (another commercial played quite often), I learned that the Haunted Mansion was in Long Branch.  I never went to that Haunted House either, although I have since been to the convention center that now stands where the Haunted Mansion once stood before it burned down.

Yes, Both Brigantine castle and the Haunted Mansion burned down.  People know what happened in the Haunted Mansion fire, but the Brigantine Castle fire is shrouded in mystery.

This is all a long way to say that Steve has written a book that is based around this mystery.

Clara is a 16-year-old girl who travels to Breach Point for the summer.  She has gotten a job at an engineering firm and she is going to live with her Aunt Maureen.  When the book first opens, we see her on the bus, happy to get away from her mother and excited but nervous about gong to this place that she vaguely remembers. (more…)

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HarpersWeb-Cover-2016-01-410SOUNDTRACK: A SILVER MT. ZION-He Has Left Us Alone but Shafts of Light Sometimes Grace the Corner of Our Rooms… [CST009] (2000).

smtzWhile working with Godspeed You Black Emperor, Efrim decided to start another band.  Ostensibly this was an attempt to “learn music” and to be able to communicate better with his fellow musicians.  Apparently, this didn’t work.  So rather he created another band A Silver Mt. Zion (whose name has changed on nearly every album).  Strangely enough, he took two other members from Godspeed with him Thierry Amar (bass and more) and Sophie Trudeau (violins).

So how different can this band sound, then?

Well, quite different, actually.  Efrim’s main instrument for this album is piano (there was no piano in Godspeed as far as I can recall).  And virtually the entire album plays like a slow modern classical piano album.

This album being made by the folks from GYBE, there’s bound to be some differences between the vinyl and the CD.  The vinyl lists two songs, while the CD breaks those two songs into four parts each.

“Lonely as the Sound of Lying on the Ground of an Airplane Going Down” is the first song.  It has four parts.

“Broken Chords Can Sing a Little” opens with some piano chords, slowly meandering through a slightly dark melody.  The song is 8 minutes long and about 3 minutes in, there’s some staticky recorded voices that speak over the melody.  A slow mournful violin comes in about 4 minutes in.  Another voice fights for dominance during the song (they may both be religious speakers, although it’s not always clear).  The last minute or so of the song is simply the two voices speaking over each other.

“Sit in the Middle of Three Galloping Dogs” introduces some drums into the mix.  It’s the only song with drums–provided by GYBE member Aidan Girt.  Those voices continue into this song.  The drums give the song momentum as they play under an echoing guitar and some cool overdubbed violin parts.  The song seems like it will continue the same, but about half way in, the music drops off except for a fast bowing violin and then it shifts tone completely, with a more intricate drumbeat and new layers of violin.

The end of the song merges with the next track’s opening piano notes.  “Stumble Then Rise on Some Awkward Morning” returns to the sound of the first track–spare piano and plaintive violin.  The song slowly builds, but in a very different way from GYBE.  The pianos grow more insistent, but don’t seem to be heading towards a cathartic conclusion, just toward a new location.  And the song ends with a series of descending piano notes.

“Movie (Never Made)”is only three minutes long and it marks yet another departure from the GYBE/SMtZ instrumental world.  Efrim sings! His singing voice is whispered and quiet (occasionally anguished) and works pretty well in this quiet song.  The beginning lyrics: “A Silver Mt. Zion / all buried in ruins / we was dancing the hora / until we vomited blood.”  (Efrim described recording the album as a “Jewish experience”).  The music is spare piano and a rather jazzy contrabass until the end when a violin is added.  But it is primarily a spare piano and vocal song.

Disc/Side Two is called “The World Is SickSICK; (So Kiss Me Quick)!” and also has four parts.

“13 Angels Standing Guard ’round the Side of Your Bed” opens with what sounds like distant voices fading in and out amid washes of guitar chords.  The bass and violin anchor the song to a melody.  The “voices” might actually be guitars, although they sound almost like angels singing amid the ambient waves.

“Long March Rocket or Doomed Airliner” is listed as being only five seconds long and is all silence.  The CD suggests that all of the songs are timed as round numbers (9:00, 3:00) which isn’t true according to the CD.

“Blown-Out Joy from Heaven’s Mercied Hole” begins with a slow jazzy bass and Efrim singing gently.  Harmony vocals (from Sophie) can be heard as well.  The song is nearly ten minutes–the longest on the disc.  And the vocals stop pretty quickly.  The rest of the song is violin over the bass with a sprinkling of piano notes as well (sometimes playing a lengthy riff or run).  This song also features two guests: Gordon Krieger on bass clarinet and Sam Shalabi on guitar (both of which come in around 8 minutes, I believe).

“For Wanda” is apparently the inspiration for the disc.  The album was born out of Efrim’s desire to record something for his dog Wanda, who died while GYBE were on tour.  This song is a slow melancholy piano with ambient sounds in the background (unclear what they are although they sound like fireworks).  Eventually, the violin comes in as well and continues the melancholia.  The song fades only to be followed by a quiet coda on the organ.

So yes, this is quite a different sound and feel from GYBE.  And, perhaps surprisingly, this would prove to be Efrim’s main musical outlet, releasing several albums and couple of EPs before GYBE would reunite.

[READ: January 19, 2016] “‘We’ve Only Just Begun'”

I was sure I had finished off all the older Harper’s stories, but here’s one that I missed.  And it is pretty peculiar.

The story is elliptical. not really having an opening and not really having an ending.

And as such, a review has to be somewhat elliptical as well.  The story opens:

“They got into our car at a stoplight. It was cold. We never lock the doors in back. There were two of them. At the apartment they terrorized us.”

One of “them” was named Grimaldi. (more…)

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2016-05SOUNDTRACK: GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR-‘Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress’ [CST111] (2015).

Godspeed_You!_Black_Emperor_-_Asunder,_Sweet_and_Other_DistressIn 2015, GY!BE released their so far last record.  And it lasts a mere 40 minutes.

As with the previous record, there are two longer songs and two somewhat shorter ones.  The album’s four tracks are based on “Behemoth,” played live numerous times since 2012 and previously recorded onstage for the concert series We Have Signal. (Absolutely worth a viewing if you like the band–this is a good recording).

“Peasantry or ‘Light! Inside of Light!'” has perhaps my favorite opening from any GY!BE album.  After a series of drum beats, the big monolithic riff kicks in.  It begins as two notes but slowly grows and morphs into something bigger.  The bands rocks the riff for about 3 minutes, when there’s a brief guitar solo and a change in direction (with lots of chaos and noise).  And then the song turns pretty and strangely uplifting–the violin riffs that punctuate the middle of the song are quite beautiful.  For the last two or so minutes, the song really slows down, keeping that same basic melody but adding a slow guitar playing the riff.  It’s capped off with more of those soaring violin riffs.  At ten minutes total, it’s one of their shorter “epic” pieces, but I think it’s a great one.

“Lambs’ Breath” (almost ten minutes) begins as a seamless continuation of the previous part, opening with noisy static guitar sounds and droney chords.  This track is almost ten minutes long and it goes through many different waves of noise.  There’s some echoed sound effects and static that more or less drop out into a quieter drone about 3 minutes in.  The quiet (very quiet) drone is accompanied by electronic sounds.  The last nearly 3 minutes are all one note, oscillating somewhat, but feeling like it never stops.  On the vinyl, this track ends in a locked groove, so it actually does go forever.

“Asunder, Sweet” (6 minutes) continues with that same note until it is punctuated by echoed guitar notes and buzzing sounds.  Around three minutes in, more sounds start rising out of the murky noise.  It feels like a beast slowly waking.  There’s some pretty feedback as the drone grows louder….

“Piss Crowns Are Trebled” is nearly 14 minutes long. It continues of the growing drones of the previous song but immediately adds a violin.

For this album there is one minor change:

  • Thierry Amar – bass guitar, double bass
  • David Bryant – electric guitar, Portasound, organ, drones
  • Aidan Girt – drums
  • Karl Lemieux – 16mm frames artwork, photography
  • Efrim Menuck – electric guitar
  • Mike Moya – electric guitar,
  • Mauro Pezzente – bass guitar
  • Sophie Trudeau – violin, drones
  • Timothy Herzog drums, drone [replacing Bruce Cawdron]

[READ: April 11, 2016] “Witness”

I really enjoyed this story and the wonderful direction it went at the end (I’ve been worried about The Walrus’ dark stories as of late).

The story is about an older woman (she is over 70), Harriet.  Harriet is a painter.  She lives alone by the lake, despite her son’s protestations.   And as the story opens, we see her attacked by someone in her home.

What was so interesting about the way the story was constructed was that Harriet remained wonderfully calm through the whole ordeal.  She remembered to turn her head while the man (who smelled of Juicy Fruit) put his arms around her throat (this prevents you from losing oxygen).  She could tell that the boy was one of the local kids who hung out down by the 7-Eleven.

But instead of freaking out, she remains calm through it all.  She talks to him in a friendly manner.  When he asks for the money, she says it’s in the bedroom.  But he forces her down the hall to the room.  As they are about to head in, she tells him that there’s a mirror in there.  She doesn’t want to see is face or know who he is (such good thinking).

He pauses, thinks this over, then throws her to the floor and proceeds to take her money.  (So I didn’t love that part of the story). (more…)

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walrusaprilSOUNDTRACK: GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR-Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! [CST081] (2012).

330px-Godspeed_You!_Black_Emperor_-_Allelujah!_Don't_Bend!_Ascend!After ten years, GY!BE came back with a new album.  It fits on one CD, but, just to be different, the band released the vinyl as one 12″ and one 7″ record.  The 12″ contains the two longer songs and the 7″ contains the two shorter ones.

“Mladic” (20 minutes) opens with sampled voices: “with his arms outstretched.”  Then comes a hurdy-gurdy and violins and droning sounds with incidental guitar notes.  This goes on for about 4 minutes before the drums and ringing chords slowly enter the song.  By about 6 and a half minutes, a buzzy guitar starts playing a feedback-squalling riff, while a second guitar follows along (in the other ear).  And by 7 and a half minutes, the drums begin and the song really takes off.  At around 9 minutes a new riff begins, slightly Middle Eastern sounding.  The whole band joins in, including some fierce drumming and the song gets bigger and bigger.  Then around 11 minutes, everything drops off except for bass and drums.  And that’s when the noisy chaotic guitar solos begin.  Things slow down, but don’t great less intense.   And then at 14 and a half minutes, everything pretty much drops out save a cello and feedback.  But that’s only a precursor to the big riff that follows.  Things slow down one more time, although it’s more of a quiet rumble with the drums going throughout.  And then they launch into the final cascade of music, saving the last 2 minutes for echoes, feedback and a rackety percussion section.  It’ fantastic.

“We Drift Like Worried Fire” (20 minutes) opens slowly with pizzicato violin notes and other sounds in the background.  A guitar riff starts at around 3 minutes which leads the song in a very different direction.  A slow violin plays over the top of the guitar riff.  The violin and drums grow more complex and at 6 minutes, the ringing guitar overtakes the rest of the music.  At around 8 minutes a series of ringing guitar “solos” enter the song. Combined with the percussive noise and the bass, it’s surprisingly catchy.  When everything drops out and there’s simply a violin playing, it seems like the song will end, but no.  Guitars play around the violin and then at 12 minutes, a new section develops around a two-note motif and complex percussion.  I love the ominous direction the song takes those two notes, and when the steady beat kicks in at 15 minutes, it makes the whole thing that much more intense.  It resolves itself into a wonderfully catchy melody.  At 17 minutes everything drops away except for a ringing guitar and strings. It seems like it might be an ending coda, but soon enough the drums come back and the song picks up again heading towards a proper climax, complete with crazed drumming that takes us until nearly the end of the song.  Another really satisfying conclusion.

The two shorter pieces are on the 7″ disc.  “Their Helicopters’ Sing” begins with a droning sound in the background.  And nearly all of its 6 minutes sound like screechy violins trying to break through the rumbling drone.  It more or less resolves itself by the end of the song into something a bit more tuneful.

“Strung Like Lights at Thee Printemps Erable” is the final 6 minute song.  Like “Helicopters” it is primarily a drone song.  This one is a little prettier at the beginning, with some delicate notes punctuating the noise, but it’s the screeching violin and feedbacking guitar that really create the noise.  By four and a half minutes that all drops away into a gentle, but still disconcerting, drone.

I don’t really love the droney stuff compared to the longer songs.  I find the two long songs to be some of their best work.  Perhaps if the droney parts were actually a part of the whole piece they would work better.

  • Thierry Amar – bass guitar, double bass, cello
  • David Bryant – electric guitar, dulcimer, Portasound, kemençe
  • Bruce Cawdron – drums, vibraphone, marimba, glockenspiel
  • Aidan Girt – drums
  • Karl Lemieux – 16mm frames artwork, photography [new]
  • Efrim Menuck – guitar, hurdy-gurdy
  • Mauro Pezzente – bass guitar
  • Mike Moya – guitar [replaced Roger Tellier-Craig]
  • Mauro Pezzente – bass guitar [new]
  • Sophie Trudeau – violin, Casio SK-5
  • [exit Norsola Johnson – cello]

 

[READ: April 10, 2016] “Hackles”

This issue of The Walrus was pretty bleak and this story is similarly bleak (what’s going on in Canada?).

The story is about a woman (told in first person) and her reflections back on a summer when she was fifteen, living in Enniskillen.  Her memories revolve around two dogs: Mort and Julie.  When she first encountered them they were guarding a farm house.  They saw her and snarled and growled at her causing her to trip and fall, but they would not cross their property line.  She says the thing that amazed her was their self-restraint–they never put one paw onto the road.

She began stopping by, looking at the dogs, for six or seven visits when the farmer’s son happened by.  He had come to tell the dogs to stop barking and then her saw her. (more…)

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walrus marchSOUNDTRACK: GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR!-Yanqui U.X.O. [CST024] (2002).

GybeyanquiuxoYanqui UXO is a single CD/double vinyl release coming in at about 80 minutes.  The lineup stayed the same, but there were a few changes.  First the band’s exclamation point moved from the end to after the “You.”  And second, this album was produced by Steve Albini.  Albini seems like an odd choice given his stripped down style and often brutal recording sound.  The album still sounds a lot like GYBE, but they have stripped out all of the field recordings and interstitial parts making a much smoother album.

The recording was described by the band as “just raw, angry, dissonant, epic instrumental rock.”  It’s hard to argue with that.

There are four or five songs on the record depending on if you have the LP or CD.  The first two songs “09-15-00, Part 1” and “09-15-00, Part 2” are merged into one on the LP.  “Rockets Fall on Rocket Falls.”  And then “Motherfucker=Redeemer, Part 1” and “Motherfucker=Redeemer, Part 2” (the LP removes the “parts” from the title, and just has the song “continued” on side 4—it’s also 5 minutes longer on the LP, primarily from ambient sounds that begin the song.  The LP also contains a hidden track called  “George Bush Cut Up While Talking.”

“09-15-00, Part 1” is 16 minutes long.  It opens slowly with what sounds like a harpsichord playing a rhythm while an echoed guitar plays a slow melody.  More instruments are slowly added as the song grows more intense.  At around 4 and half minutes a new melody enters from the bass.  It is complex but doesn’t alter the general tone of the song.  The song goes almost entirely silent at 6 and a half minutes, but a new melody starts—soft one note strings start as guitars creep into the sound.  Then a violin begins a melody that the guitar soon echoes.  The full band plays along with this melody at around 9 minutes and it gets more intense as the drums pick up speed.  This all drops away once more except for a martial beat and a bass line.  A guitar plays a melody over this simple section and then it builds and builds until the last few violin notes squeak out.

“09-15-00, Part 2” is six minutes long and is probably the simplest and most beautiful piece they have recorded.  There’s no build up, no drama, it’s just a pretty song full of strings and guitars.

“Rockets Fall on Rocket Falls” opens with a simple three note guitar melody and violins playing over the top.  The strings get bigger and more prominent and the rest of the band starts filling in.  Around three and half minutes in, the song gets really raucous…until it settles down again.  The song builds again, with the violins taking prominence.  At about seven-minutes, the song changes drastically with a lengthy descending series of notes (on horns) leading to a spare drum beat which lasts over a minute before the horns come back in.  After a minute or so of solitary horn notes, some guitars start playing in the background.  By around 13 minutes ominous chords have developed, overshadowing nearly everything else—and that steady drumbeat certainly causes some tension.  By 16:30 the tension has been released and the chords are welcoming and bright.  The song seems like it ends around nineteen minutes in, but there’s a gentle string section coda tacked on at the end.

“Motherfucker=Redeemer, Part 1” opens with gentle ringing sounds like a child’s toy.  After about 2 minutes, guitars start coming in—one playing staccato notes another playing chords and a bass playing as simple pattern.  At 3 and a half minutes the main riff comes it.  It is played on the violin and has vaguely Jewish feel to it.  There aren’t a ton of changes in this song, which more or less just builds around the same riff.  By 7 minutes there’s a soaring violin solo which screams over the top of the song.  There are moments when the song gets louder and quieter but it definitely feels like all one song until about 10 minutes when it more or less slows to a halt.  There’s some slow violin sounds an a simple guitar.  This second part of the song is similar to the first in that it is a regular guitar riff playing as the rest of the band fills in around it.  At around 13 minutes, a bigger fuzzier guitar takes over the riff.  The song continues in various forms until the end, when it is just a bass line.

“Part 2” is only ten minutes long (15 on vinyl).  It opens with the strings providing washes of music.  A new, fairly complex bassline opens the song.  The band builds the track with fast drumming and louder and louder strings.  It shifts tone at around 4 minutes.  And for the next 3 minutes it gets more intense until it seems to fade out, introducing a new guitar riff that works almost like a coda to the whole thing.  The drums are insane for this ending part and the band seems like they are just going nuts as the song comes crashing to an end.  The extra five minutes on vinyl come at the beginning of the song.  It starts with voices singing some basic “ahhhs” and then a guitar playing a ringing note.  It does add to the tension that builds up before the music begins properly and really should be checked out if you’ve only heard the CD version.

“George Bush Cut Up While Talking” is 3 minutes of a George Bush address cut up (it sounds like it is a skipping CD) interspersed with clapping that sounds like static and a voice saying “it is the predominant question, why am I here and what can I do to make it better how can I do what is right.”  (There’s a disconcerting video of this here.)

I think this album is really fantastic.  And while I enjoy their found sounds, I prefer that they’re just playing music.

After making this album the band would go on hiatus for…ten years.  Here’s the line up for Yanqui.

  • Thierry Amar – bass guitar
  • David Bryant – electric guitar
  • Bruce Cawdron – drums
  • Aidan Girt – drums
  • Norsola Johnson – cello
  • Efrim Menuck – guitar
  • Mauro Pezzente – bass guitar
  • Roger Tellier-Craig – guitar [replaced Mike Moya]
  • Sophie Trudeau – violin

[READ: April 11, 2016] “”Where the Yazoo Cross the Yellow Dog””

This is an except from a story about Jimbo and Rob.  The opening details Jimbo’s (James) parents, which I rather enjoyed.  Particularly the details about his father–his daily “three and three-quarter minute boiled egg served in a brightly coloured egg cup” and this statement:

‘I view hot toast,’ he said in one of his rare communications, pointing to the solitary Hovie slice lodged cold in the silver toast rack, ‘as offensively American.’

I also loved the dogmatic qualities of his father

‘What?’ said the Major.  ‘What?”
Which was his usual response top any reply short of complete agreement or grovelling.

And

“Don’t say ‘haven’t got,'” said the Major.  “It is both redundant and ill-bred.  ‘Haven’t’ will suffice.”

But the story is really about Jimbo and his friend Rob Forde (that cannot be a coincidence).  Jimbo was a teenager affecting sophistication (he wanted a smoking jacket) and he and Rob looked through junk shops for cigarette cases and art books. (more…)

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janfeb2016SOUNDTRACK: GODSPEED YOU BLACK EMPEROR!-“lift yr. skinny fists like antennas to heaven!” [CST012] (2000).

330px-LiftyrskinnyfistsSo far GYBE had released an album and an EP, so why not follow up with a double album/double CD.  This collection has either 4 songs with multiple parts or many many songs.  (The CD release suggests 4 songs–two per disc each over 20 minutes).

Although on the accompanying sheet, there’s a diagram in which Efrim has mapped out each of the four tracks and indicated where each part (with its own title) begins.

The first song “Storm” opens slowly.  Part one “Lift Yr. Skinny Fists, Like Antennas to Heaven…” has strings and simple, quiet guitar riff which build for about three minutes.  Then the guitars kick in and the song soars to majestic heights.  The guitar riff continues through this section and then horns add to the music to make it feel even bigger.  It’s an amazing start to a disc.

“Gathering Storm/Il Pleut à Mourir [+Clatters Like Worry]” slows things down as the last cymbal crashes fade and a violin remains the sole sound.  Then a new guitar riff begins, slow and sweet, once again with a kind of nod to “Amazing Grace” in the melody. Then the strings swell and take over.  When the bass line begins, it heralds the arrival of the drums and the song rocks along.  After a few minutes, the strings bring in the real tension of the storm.  The drums really come to the fore with lots of pounding and cymbal crashes.  The intensity begins to slow down until it thuds to silence.

     “‘Welcome to Barco AM/PM…’ [ L.A.X.; 5/14/00]”  opens with a staticky voice welcoming you to Barco and then lets you know not to associate with people washing windows or soliciting.  This track is about a minute before the piano begins indicating the start of the final part “Cancer Towers on Holy Road Hi-Way.”  Behind the piano are simple mournful chords, although the staticky voices continue until the end of the song.

Track two “Static” opens with “Terrible Canyons of Static.”  There are truck horns and train noises followed by ominous chords.   The noise and static continues through “Atomic Clock,” and the recording “at the tone 3 hours, 21 minutes according to universal time.”  This merges into “Chart #3” which contains a clear speaking preacher (who says ‘penetrate’ a lot) with a very sad violin melody.  A guitar starts playing a different melody which indicates the beginning of “World Police and Friendly Fire.”  A bass line takes over and is accompanied by a violin and guitar.  There’s tension in the music as it builds and builds.  But the drum beat means the start of a new violin melody complete with glockenspiel.  This staccato rhythms keep up for a time until it is replaced by a loud feedbacking guitar solo.  It’s followed by a fairly conventional section of drums and bass complimented with strings.  This section feels like it is building to something and it all coalesces in the cathartic crashing of the start of “[…+The Buildings They Are Sleeping Now]” (this particular release is outstanding as they really drag out the climax).  The riff for this is fast and heavy with more screaming guitar.  It only lasts for a minute or so, but it’s fantastic.  The rest of this section is primarily feedback and silence.  There’s some percussive sounds and moments of louder noises, but at over 5 minutes this section is a little too long.

Disc Two, track 3 “Sleep” has only three parts.  “Murray Ostril: ‘…They Don’t Sleep Anymore on the Beach…'” is a one-minute opening with a man (Murray?) talking about how Coney Island used to be so amazing.  “Monheim”  opens with some slow guitar and mournful strings playing over the top.  When the violin fades, a new guitar melody, more upbeat, begins.   The song stays pretty quiet until about 7 minutes in when the drums enter and an interesting guitar section continues to build in waves, but stays fairly mellow and upbeat.  Around 8 minutes the same motif grows to supersize.  And the wavery guitar? violin? that runs through this whole section grows louder and louder as the music swells and swells until a martial beat takes over and the melody is repeated (albeit much faster) which acts as an unexpected and satisfying conclusion to all that tension.  This section starts to deconstruct, leaving only a siren like guitar and lots of static which indicates the beginning of the third part, “Broken Windows, Locks of Love Pt. III.”   Out of the noise comes a simple two note pattern.  The song grows more complex with as the rhythm is kept by a single chime.  When the drums kick in (all of a sudden) the song gains momentum.  And the cool bass line that propels the rest oft he song (complete with horns) is great.  At about 18 minutes the song quiets down with just the guitar and drums keeping things afloat for a bit until it settles down into a very pretty string melody.  Soon enough, the rest of the band kicks in and the song starts to build again.  But rather than reaching a huge crescendo, it begins to fade out, leaving just a hi-hat and some feedback to fill out the last minute.

“Antennas to Heaven” is the shortest piece at only 18 minutes.  It opens with “Moya Sings ‘Baby-O’…” which is (I assume) Mike Moya (who is not credited on the record, I don’t think) singing “Baby-O” and playing the acoustic guitar.  As that fades, waves of noise swell as the 58 seconds of “Edgyswingsetacid” rumbles through.  It is then replaced by the 47 seconds of “[Glockenspiel Duet Recorded on a Campsite In Rhinebeck, N.Y.]” which sounds otherworldly.  The final short section is “‘Attention…Mon Ami…Fa-Lala-Lala-La-La…’ [55-St. Laurent]”  which is one minute long and consists primarily of children chatting ion French.

The main body of this track is the nearly ten minute “She Dreamt She Was a Bulldozer, She Dreamt She Was Alone in an Empty Field.”  It begins with gentle waves of music pulsing in and out.  After about 90 seconds of this, the song bursts into a rocking section–drums and electric guitar playing a propulsive beat.  This doesn’t last long though as the sound of wind howling takes over the song and an ominous almost metallic ticking sound rings out.  This resolves into a two note motif with strings.  It turns onto more of a song proper with all of the instruments supporting a pretty guitar solo.  As the song fades to just violins, “Deathkamp Drone” picks up with various unsettling washes of sounds.  The final section “[Antennas to Heaven…]”  is a strange screechy-sounding guitar solo that echoes through to the end.

This disc is very big and very long, but aside from a few moments where the noise or drones lingers a bit too long, there’s just so much going on that the music never gets dull.  It’s quite an achievement.

Godspeed You Black Emperor has had a few lineup changes over the years.  For this double LP, they added a new guitarist (and a lot of supporting musicians), they changed violinists and lost the french horn. 

  • Thierry Amar – bass guitar
  • David Bryant – electric guitar
  • Bruce Cawdron – drums
  • Aidan Girt – drums
  • Norsola Johnson – cello
  • Efrim Menuck – guitar
  • Mauro Pezzente – bass guitar
  • Roger Tellier-Craig – guitar [replaced Mike Moya]
  • Sophie Trudeau – violin

[READ: January 26, 2016] “The Shomer and the Boreal Owl”

I find that Stephen Marche likes to really push boundaries.  And I find that some of his stories I like and others I simply do not.

And this one I did not.

The whole premise is weirdly unsettling.  Ephraim wakes up one day and finds that he gets really turned on by wild animals. He gets an erection when he sees a deer running through the woods.  What the fuck?

We meet this man who has had many troubled events in his life–the death of his daughter, his divorce soon after, the loss of his job and livelihood.  And now this. (more…)

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