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Archive for the ‘Sarah Neufeld’ Category

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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rollerSOUNDTRACK: SARAH NEUFELD-Hero Brother [CST095] (2013).

heroroSarah Neufeld is best known as the violinist for Arcade Fire. I wanted to like this disc more than I did.  There’s a lot of really good music and ideas, but the whole album felt a little lacking in excitement.

This solo album was recorded in Berlin by pianist and producer Nils Frahm, with Neufeld’s performances captured in a number of locations with site-specific acoustics, including an abandoned geodesic dome, an underground parking garage, and the legendary Studio P4 orchestral recording hall at the broadcast complex of the former GDR.

On track with a * you can hear the echo of the surroundings (although I’m not sure which is which).

*”Tower” is a repeat of three notes quickly bowed with an echoed ghostly voice floating over the top of the melody. Its lasts but 2 minutes and then disappears.  “Hero Brother” has repeated low notes flanked by high notes until the main fast riff spirals out.  About a minute in, a stomping drum comes in and her playing sounds a bit more folksy. It’s an interesting twist on the more formal earlier style.  I love that it ends almost starkly in the middle, allowing those last notes to resonate.

*”Dirt” begins with high pitches notes that seem to echo and resonate forever.  And then she switches to a spritely somewhat upbeat melody of quick notes. The third part of the song luxuriates in slow bowing—long notes that linger.  “You are the Field”  begins slowly with some bending notes that descend and then ascend.  It’s interesting to hear her slide up and down the neck while some of the main notes remain the same.

*”Breathing Black Ground” has slow echoed note, but about mid way through a low note anchors the pieces as the high notes play a melancholy melody while Nils Frahm plays the harmonium.  “They Live On” is primarily plucked strings until her echoed voice sails over the top. This piece is more pretty than the others but is still rather stark.

“Wrong Thought” has a kind of sci-fi sound as it opens.  A kind of piercing high note is resolved into some lowers notes and then a cool melody.  The ending few notes are a pretty series that rise from the darkness of the main piece.  “Right Through” is a series of three notes played in different location on the fret. It is lonely sounding until some higher notes begin to appear as well.  And then Sarah’s ghostly voice emerges from the background with a kind of haunted phrasing.  It’s quite lovely and then things become quite raucous with some very fast fiddling.

“Forcelessness” opens with a series of three high pitches notes that are quite breathtaking. The notes descend slowly through the melody as a piano plays long held notes to accent the descent. It’s by far my favorite on the disc.  The disc ends with *”Below” which is slow and melancholy with her voice echoing in.

I guess I was expecting there to be more virtuoso pieces rather than a kind of moody ambient record.  Most of the melodies are pretty, but  there’s not a lot of diversity.

[READ: February 12, 2016] Rollergirl

Oh boy, did I love this story.  And not just because it’ about roller derby (although that is quite a lot of it).  I loved it because it had a protagonist who felt she didn’t have a personality or a “thing” and managed to not only get one, but to get an unsuaul one–and to make friends doing it

This story is a bout Astrid Vazquez (an unlikely name if ever there was).  Astrid’s mom always wants her and her best friend, Nicole, to do cultural things.  So they go to museums, to the opera, poetry readings, that sort of thing.  It’s not always fun.  But on this night she takes them to a warehouse where the see a roller derby match!

Astrid (who loves to wear black and is the tomboy of the two) is hooked immediately.  Nicole, who is more prissy and does ballet, is interested but a little freaked out.  And when they discover that there is a roller derby camp for the summer. Astrid assumes they will both sign up and become derby superstars like their new heroine Rainbow Bite (is there anything better than roller derby names?).

But Nicole quietly informs her that she is not doing that.  Not only doesn’t she want to but she actually wants to go to ballet camp this summer.  So there.

And that’s when the opening scene where Nicole is with the horrible, awful, super mean Rachel.  Rachel is the one who came up with the nickname Ass-turd (which maybe makes this not so much a children’s book, but it’s the only bad part). (more…)

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walrusjulySOUNDTRACK: SARA NEUFELD-“Forcelessness” (2013).

neufeldSara Neufeld has a new album coming out on Constellation Records.  Neufeld is the violinist for Arcade Fire–not someone you think of as a “special” violinist or someone who necessarily stands out in the band.  But her violin here is haunting and beautiful.

The album is pretty much her and her violin with occasional accompaniment.  On this track she is accompanied by pianist Nils Frahm (whom I don’t know).  The song was recorded in a parking garage giving it an incredibly expansive sound.

It opens is a somber tone with repeated triplets.  But once the pianos come in, the triplets become slightly more positive.  For a time.

There is something very simple and yet very pleasing about this track–it doesn’t alter itself very much over its three minutes and yet the subtle variations in notes can really affect the mood of the song as it is playing.

[READ: July 15, 2013] “The Eviction Process”

I don’t know why I’m always surprised by stories that go dark.  But this story is very dark indeed.

It begins with two men and an autistic boy (who proves to be the son of one of the men) visiting The Champ in the hospital.  The Champ is one of their roommates and they have come to tell him that he is being evicted.  They are nervous as anything because The Champ is not afraid to use his considerable strength in a fight (and the narrator has a stashed bottle of vodka in his pants that he would hate to see smashed).

But The Champ takes it very well, considering he is now homeless.

Their next stop is back home where the eviction process continues.  The next person is Morgan, but Morgan is passed out from huffing keyboard duster.  So, they’ll get him later. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: GIRL TALK-All Day (2010).

Girl Talk is the product of Gregg Gillis.  Gillis doesn’t play any instruments.  All he does is mash-up different songs into a killer DJ mix.  There is absolutely nothing legal about what he does (in terms of copyright), and for that reason alone, I love it.  But beyond that,  he does a great job of mashing two (and more) songs together.

Mostly this is a fun way to play “spot the song” [Hey: “In Your Arms,” Hey “War Pigs”].  And when you give up you can check out the samples list (which has 37 entries under the name D alone). [Hey, Spacehog’s “In the Meantime”]

I knew a lot of the songs that he sampled, but he also put in a lot of rap which I didn’t know.  The rap works well over the original music (what sampling would be like for real if it was legal).  [Hey, Portishead!]

Mostly you get a minute or maybe a little more of each song, [Radiohead’s “Creep”] sometimes the clips are sped up or slowed down to merge perfectly with the other.  And it’s a whole lot of fun.  [The Toadies!] As someone described it, it’s like listening to a whole bunch of radio stations at once [“Cecelia”].  And, if you don’t like the song that’s on [two seconds of the Grateful Dead?], just wait a couple seconds. [INXS].

Gillis doesn’t (really) sell his music.  Indeed, you can download all of All Day for free fromIllegal Art.  [Hey, the middle of Edgar Winter’s “Frankenstein”].

I’m not sure if it’s art, per se, but it’s clearly a lot of work, and it takes a lot of skill to make it so seamless [White Zombie!].  It probably works very well at a party too.

[READ: June 20, 2011] Five Dials Number 13

Five Dials 13 is more or less the music issue.  It is specifically dedicated to festivals and their overindulgence of everything.  And so it is long (63 pages), it is full of rather diverse points of view, it even has clouds!  Thankfully it’s not full of overflowing portapotties.  It also has lots of artwork from Raymond Pettibon, which is pretty fantastic in and of itself.

CRAIG TAYLOR-Letter from the Editor: On Festivals and George Thoroughgood
The letter opens with some comments on Festivals–two paragraphs of complainants about festivals with a final admission that the interlocuter is going to Glastonbury.  The end of the letter is devoted to a story from George Thoroughgood.  Usually I agree with the Five Dials‘ tastes without question, but I have a serious complaint about their love of Thoroughgood, about whom it would be charitable to say that he has written one song seventy-five times.  And I have absolute incredulity at this quote from George:

The promoters had gone to another festival where we played on Thursday before Roskilde, and they were so knocked out by the power of the performance they called me the next day and asked if we would mind if they changed our show time to close the festival.

Are you seriously telling me that they would change the headlining act a weekend before the festival?  How pissed would you be if your headliner was bumped for 90 minutes of ‘Bad to the Bone’?  Good grief. (more…)

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