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Archive for the ‘Highasakite’ Category

may5SOUNDTRACK: SAINTSENECA-Tiny Desk Concert #377 (July 29, 2014).

saintsenecaLike Highasakite, Saintesenca is another band who plays instruments that are unusual (and whose Tiny Desk Concert is way too short).  But before the music started, I was fascinated by the hair of the band.  Zac Little’s head is partially shaved and he beard  is unshaven, but he also has an incredible mustache.  It’s so thick I couldn’t see his mouth moving when he started singing!  There’s also the co-lead singer, Maryn Jones’ hair which is equally fascinating.

And there’s also their instruments.  On the album, they play: banjo, baglama, bulbul, balalaika, bowed banjo, baritone ukulele, bass and bouzouki as well as a stomp box.  For the first song, “Happy Alone,” In this set there is a baglamas (played by Jones), while Little plays a Paul McCartney style bass.  There’s also drums and electric and acoustic guitars.

And their music is fantastic “Happy Alone” has a kind of Decemberists vibe.  There’s a great chorus (and two acoustic guitars accompanying).  The melody is catchy but by the time it comes around a second or third time, it’s a total ear worm.

Between songs they talk about the stompbox.  It’s a roughly 2’x2′ plywood floorboard meant for pounding the beat. The blurb says that “at a show just before this Tiny Desk Concert… Little put his boot right through that floorboard.”  There’s a hole in the box which Jones seems concerned about falling through.  The box also explains why Jones and Little both seem so outrageously tall at this show.

On “Fed Up with Hunger” Little plays a four-stringed guitar (I wish they would say what all of these instrument are).  He plays some wonderfully elaborate chords on it.  Jones sings lead in a very high-pitched delicate voice.  There’s an electric guitar added for the chorus but for the most part this is a stripped down song with some lovely harmonies in the end section.

The final song “Blood Bath” has three distinct parts and it is awesome.  Jones plays bass, Little plays acoustic and the other acoustic guitarist  plays a tiny triangular instrument (a balalaika?).  Little sings in a kind of broken falsetto.  After the first slow verse the whole band kicks in and the song really takes off.  But soon after, the whole band seems to deconstruct the song, playing a few seconds of utter noise before coming back in and following it with a really fast rocking and equally catchy section.  It’s pretty awesome.

I’m going to have to look for more from them.

[READ: May 5, 2008] “Them Old Cowboy Songs”

I was looking through older stories and saw that I had not finished a story by Proulx which was written in a June issue of the New Yorker in this ame year.  How did she ever get two stories within a month of each other?  (And they’re both really really long, too).

This story is dark. Very dark and brutal.  It is set in 1885 and looks at a young couple trying to make it out in the wilderness

Archie is a sixteen year old who lies and says he is 21 to try to get better jobs.  He works a cowboy in Dakota Territory.  In addition to being a hard worker, he is a consummate singer with a golden voice.  He marries a young girl (14), named Rose whose parents don’t approve of him or of her getting married at 14, and they settle in.  The narrator notes: “There is no happiness like that of a young couple in a little house they have built themselves in a place of beauty and solitude.” (more…)

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2008_04_21-400SOUNDTRACK: HIGHASAKITE-Tiny Desk Concert #376 (July 25, 2014).

 highkiteFor some reason, some bands play a Tiny Desk Concert that is very short.  It’s especially disappointing when the band is unusual and interesting like Highasakite.

They play only two songs (for a total of 8 minutes), but they cram a lot of interesting sounds into these songs, including a flugabone.  Kristoffer Lo plays that mournful horn and Ingrid Helene Håvik compliments the yearning with words that are mysterious and somewhat dark.

For “The Man on the Ferry” the song opens with the horn playing mournful notes while the percussionist plays a tiny steel drum and Håvik plays a kind of autoharp.  There’s the fascinating lyric: “It made the Indian in me cry.”  (It’s especially interesting since the band is from Norway).

Håvik has an inflection something like Björk’s (although her singing style is very different) and there are some delightful harmonies.

The melody of the second song “Since Last Wednesday” is familiar to me.  Or the combination of steel drum and horn is just really compelling. It’s fascinating to watch the guitarist wield his horn in one hand while holding the guitar with the other and singing harmonies.  The song is also kind of mysterious (that horn again) with the lyrics:

He would never do graffiti or vandalize that house. And he would never be caught spray painting on those people’s walls. But no one has seen or heard from him since last Wednesday.

As the song progresses some really dark lyrics crop up, all under that beguiling melody.

The blurb lists some of their other titles: “Leaving No Traces,” “I, The Hand Grenade,” “The Man on the Ferry,” “Science & Blood Tests” which really says quite a lot about this interesting band.  I definitely want to hear more than eight minutes from them.

[READ: February 20, 2016] “The Repatriates”

I was fascinated by this story because I hadn’t really heard of the phenomenon of Russian emigres returning to Russia because they felt the conditions were better there than in America

The story starts by telling us that Grisha and Lera’s marriage has dissolved.  In 1994 Grisha’s visa had been processed and he was brought to America by Hewlett-Packard.  He found it demeaning and like servitude ans as soon as it was up her quit and got a new job with Morgan Stanley–building market models for mortgage traders (for those of us who doesn’t know what that is, it’s not rally that important).

But Grisha felt empty.  He said there as no spirituality in America (even though he himself was not spiritual)

Eventually Grisha started travelling back to Moscow (they had not been able to sell their apartment there, so he had a place to stay). He would visit old friends and make news ones.  He started going more frequently.  And then one of his trips lasted for two months. (more…)

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