Archive for the ‘Tangerine Dream’ Category


Not long after the release of the Awakening EP, Magic Sword is back to conclude the story arc that the previous albums have created.

The Keeper (red, keyboard, audio-visual), The Seer (blue, guitar), and The Weaver (yellow, drums) are Immortal and they have seen a story like this one unfold many times.  So they are not surprised by the direction it goes in.

“Depths of Power” opens this chapter with a slow pulsing matched with occasional power chords.  “Invincible” adds a new sound palette to the band’s music.  This song sounds a bit more like Tangerine Dream but with some more contemporary techno type sounds.

“Aftermath” adds some swirling uneasy sounds to the album.  It contains curlicues of sound that wiggle around and segue into “Empress” which has a low rumble underneath the propulsive synths.

“Shores of Oblivion” is a more eerie soundscape of wind and slow pulsing waves of emptiness. When the fast melody comes from out of the waves it feels like something sinister heading right for you.

“rophecy” adds some light to the proceedings with an uplifting melody which is eventually corrupted by “Corruption” and turns into a more threatening tone.

“Ritual” introduces a fairly heavy bassline and some more modern sounding synths.  Then “A New Quest” returns to the pulsing sound of old.  “Hope” starts quietly but brings am uplifting melody that continues throughout the song.

“Endless” ends the disc with strings–ominous at first but which move into a more stately melody that fades out slowly over a long time–continuing endlessly

The band also released a single of “Invincible” with a remix by Waveshaper.  I don’t typically like remixes, because mostly they just dump a new drum beat over an old melody, but this one plays around with the song in interesting ways.  It turns it into something different without losing the original.  I rather like the new bass line they add to the song.

In the comic book, Magic Sword says that this ends the cycle.  Does that mean the end of Magic Sword … or the beginning of a new cycle?

[READ: October 29, 2020] Magic Sword Volume 2, Chapter 3

Chapter 3 concludes this cycle somewhat unexpectedly for me (although it makes perfect sense once it is explained).

When Chapter 2 ended, Nayia came face to face (or more like face to big toe) with The Colossus.  It was the size of a mountain and seemed to be covered in bark.  It quickly grabbed hold of her with its tendrils, trying to burrow into her orifices.

But the power of the Magic Sword was still within her and it fought back where she couldn’t.  With its help she was easily able to best this beast.

But the story doesn’t end there. (more…)

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december 11SOUNDTRACK: KAWABATA MAKOTO [河端一]-Astro Love & Infinite Kisses (2017).

Kawabata Makoto [河端一] is the guitarist and mastermind behind Acid Mothers Temple. The band is hugely prolific. But he still had time to record solo albums. Often times without any guitar.

This was a Kawabata solo LP, now available on bandcamp.

Astro Love is the first widely available solo release in several years from Kawabata, emerging from a period of relative quiet with this blockbuster Krautrock-flavored epic. On the whole, this a lovely and impressionistic record, the other side of Makoto’s outrageous works with Acid Mothers’ Temple. Taking cues from classics of the genre like Tangerine Dream’s Phaedra and Steve Hillage’s Rainbow Dome Music.  Cover by Japanese youth art sensation Okumura Mondo!

“Dos Nurages” (40:30) is the centerpiece of the record, a 41 minute hypnotic epic, with echoplex’d guitar anchoring a stream of expertly done glissando. It is a fast, pulsing Krautrock experience with a swirling drone and fast repeated notes on the echoing guitar.  The waves of sound fade in and out leaving just the echoing guitar and then replacing it with more of the same.

“Astro Love & Infinite Kisses” (17:41) is a darker drone, in the traditions of Kawabata’s INUI series of releases for VHF. Scraping sounds and pizzicato string melodies converge over the drone.  This melody runs throughout the song as the backing drones grow bigger and louder.  These drone progressions add a lot of tension.

“Woman From Dream Island” (18:22) finishes the record with a thick buzz of tamboura overlaid with trippy backwards guitar, before giving way to a gentle finger-picked acoustic coda.  The drone sounds like a sitar or a hurdy gurdy.  There also seems to be a kind of strummed sitar over the top.  At 13 minutes a lovely pizzicato melody is added on top.

This is certainly one of the less harsh solo creations that Kawabata has unveiled.

[READ: September 10, 2019] “The Story of Dice”

I haven’t read a lot by Ricky Jay.  I had heard of him just before he died and I’d like to see more of what he has done.  Especially if they are as interesting as this.

Jay has a book out called Dice: Deception, Fate & Rotten Luck.  It has pictures by Rosamund Purcell.  The book is 64 pages.  I have to wonder, since the book is full of lavish photos, if this essay is the entirety of the book.

This essays is divided into parts, with each small section focusing on a different aspect of the history of dice–which is more interesting than you might expect.

In “Dice in a Bottle” he talks about a pair of dice found in the Thames.  They were in a waterproof cage dating from the 15th century.  They had been drilled and weighted with quicksilver to the throwers advantage.  There were also “high men” dice that only had a 4, 5 and 6 and “low men” that only had a 1, 2 and 3. They were clearly tossed into the river by a hustler trying to avoid detection. (more…)

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harpjulySOUNDTRACK: JERUSALEM IN MY HEART-Mo7it Al-Mo7it [CST093] (2013)

mo7So just what is Jerusalem in My Heart?  According to the Constellation records website:

Jerusalem In My Heart (JIMH) has been a live audio-visual happening since 2005, with Montréal-based producer and musician Radwan Ghazi Moumneh at its core. Moumneh is a Lebanese national who has spent a large part of his adult life in Canada.  Moumneh is also active in the Beirut and Lebanese experimental music scenes, where he spends a few months every year.

but more specifically, what does it sound like?

Jerusalem In My Heart (JIMH) is a project of contemporary Arabic and electronic music interwoven with 16mm film projections and light-based (de)constructions of space, exploring a relationship between music, visuals, projections and audience.  …   [The album blends] melismatic singing in classic Arabic styles and electronic compositions with contemporary electronic production. …  Moumneh’s voice has become a powerfully authentic instrument, [along with Saturated synths and the overdriven signals of Moumneh’s acoustic buzuk and zurna].

And what’s up with the title of the record?

The numeral 7 is pronounced like an h; all titles on the album are rendered in contemporary colloquial “mobile” Arabic (the transliterative characters used in Arabic phone texting).

Alright, now that that’s out of the way, the album begins with “Koll lil-mali7ati fi al-khimar al-aswadi (Speak of the Woman in the Black Robe)” which opens with an echoed voice that reminds me of the way a dance track might start.  But it quickly becomes clear that the singer is sing in Arabic and in a somewhat traditional manner (but with an echoed effect on the voice).  I don’t really know how Arabic music might be sung, but this is what it sounds like to me.  By the end of the track, some keyboards are added, echoing to the end.

The second track, “3andalib al-furat (Nightingale of the Euphrates)” is a 9-minute instrumental.  It opened with acoustic stringed instruments Dina Cindric playing the Rast Virginal on the banks of Al-Furat.  It is a beautiful piece, recorded outdoors with the sounds of birds and other animals contributing.  It never grows louder than these instruments.

And then this acoustic and mellow piece jumps into the very electronic sounding third song, “Yudaghdegh al-ra3ey wala al-ghanam (He titillates the shepherd, but not the sheep…).”   The opening riff is very late 70s Tangerine Dream-sounding.  I expected a lengthy instrumental, so I was very surprised when the female vocalist (I assume Malena Szlam Salazar) began singing in tradition Arabic style.  It’s a great mix.  Especially at the end as her voice gets more processed.

Track four, “3anzah jarbanah (Sick, Diseased Goat)” is a mostly a capella vocal song with Moumneh singing in his mournful keening voice.  He sounds pained as his voice has a slight echo to it.  After about three minutes a distorted keyboard plays behind the voice.  It has a distinctly 1980s sci-fi vibe.

“Ya dam3et el-ein 3 (Oh Tear of the Eye 3)”  is 5 minute-instrumental which I believe is done mostly by Sarah Pagé playing the Bayat Harp on the banks of Dajla.  Again birds are heard throughout.  These instrumentals are just lovely.

“Ko7l el-ein, 3oumian el-ein (Eyeliner of the Eye, Blindness of the Eye)” has a kind of solo opening on what I assume is the buzuk.  It’s fast and a little wild by the end with an electronic sounding synth line running in the background that more or less takes over the song.  The final track is ” Amanem (Amanem)” which has Moumneh’s vocals and a keyboard drone behind it.  It’s a rather mournful and spooky  vocal style and sounds likes he as about to cry.

Since I don’t really know what the album is about, the ending seems like kind of a downer.  But since I am exposed to practically no contemporary Arabic music, I found this to be a really interesting listen, and I wonder if it is in any way representative of contemporary Arabic music.

[READ: August 22, 2016] “My Holy Land Vacation”

I read this more of Bissell, not because of the contents, as I like Bissell quite a bit.  But I found myself strangely engrossed by this story of traveling to Israel with a busload of Conservatives.

Bissell says that he enjoys listening to right-wing radio.  He names a few hosts who I don’t know and then ends with Dennis Prager.  I don’t know him either, but he is the impetus for this article so there ya go.  Bissell describes him as the “patriarch trying to keep the conversation moderately high-minded” which sounds pretty good.

Prager is Jewish and his audience is largely Christian.  And in the summer he organized a Stand with Israel tour.  For about $5,000 you could go on an all-inclusive guided tour across the world’ holiest and most contested land.

Bissell provides some context that the religious right hasn’t always been fans of Israel.  Indeed my recollection is that the Christian right was very antisemitic.  But by 2002 conservatives were vested in the cause because of some common beliefs like forbidding abortion and being suspicious of Muslims.

When Bissell first saw Prager in person he admits to the man’s charisma.  Bissell talks about what is known as the Israel Test which is summed up “if you ever find fault with Israel, you’re horrible.”  Prager believes that all American parents should send their children to Israel between high school and college to let their moral compass be righted again.

As for the trip itself–the food is plentiful everywhere–embarrassingly so.  He doesn’t like many of the people on the trip.  And he and his wife have to remember to not act like New York liberals.  But the one thing that Tom and his wife (and the people he has grown to like on the bus) can agree on is that their guide David is “the tour guide to have while Standing with Israel.”

Bissell is pleased to hear that the locals are pretty even-handed about a lot of things, always trying to explain up how most of the citizenry–both Israelis and Palestinians want peace.  But the travelers are appalled at this even handedness.  They want partisanship.  A woman yells that there no way that Israelis are teaching their children to hate.  A soldier–a man who lives here–responds to her that he knows Israeli families who do raise their children to hate Palestinians.  She responds, “Respectfully, no.  Respectfully, no.”

Later when they go to Nazareth, their tour guide explains that Nazareth has pretty much always been Arab territory–they didn’t take it from the Israelis, but no one appears satisfied with this answer.

Eventually they go to a settlement and meet self-described “Israeli rednecks.”  The man was born in Cleveland and moved to Israel in 1961.  He is a rabble-rouser and makes Bissell uncomfortable.  Bissell has to leave the room during the man’s excoriations.  When he steps outside, he meets Pastor Marty who is also appalled at the belligerence.  Marty blames talk radio in general and wonders when the last time “anyone was forced to have a civil discussion with someone who thought differently.”

But the real crisis is aboard Bus Five–Bissell’s bus–because their beloved tour guide has been fired because of complaints.  And a whole section talks about the bus’ reaction to this.  They even form factions who want to Stand Up for Dave, and the de facto leader begins trying to find out who is for or against Dave.  The section is pretty fun and strangely exciting.

But the final section grows much more serous.  They visit Yad Vashem, Jerusalem’s Holocaust Memorial.

Soon the rest of the bus and its occupants are forgotten and Bissell simply thinks about this memorial and the thousands of dead.  And then he thinks of his own family–he and his wife left their relatively new-born daughter home with grandparents.

I expected that this essay would be full of some crazy people spouting crazy things.  And to an extent it was, but what I like about Bissell’s writing is how empathetic he is and how he can really convey different perspectives while retaining his own individuality.  The essay also  contained a lot of interesting information and had a surprisingly emotional ending–one that is far removed from right-wing radio..

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clockworkSOUNDTRACK: FEU THÉRÈSE-Ça Va Cogner [CST049] (2007).

feu2Bands change sounds from one album to another all the time, but few as radically as this one. From weirdo psychedelic band to French new wave pop band, from 6 minute instrumentals to 2 and 3 minute songs with vocals.

At times the album feels like Kraftwerk meets Serge Gainsbourg (which I know is an unfair reduction, but when your singer mostly talk/sings in a deep French voice, the comparison is apt.  And yet the album is fairly poppy and catchy as well.

“A Nos Amours” opens the disc with three minutes of synth happiness. It even has a section where the music drops out and the bass resumes its place.  Recall in their debut that at 4 minutes of each song something radically different happened.  Now the songs just end. “Visage Sous Nylon” features the more Kraftwerk sound—but it’s an almost organic Kraftwerk (which I know makes no sense but there it is). “Les Deserts des Azurs” has a kind of Tangerine Dream feel with washes of analog synths.

“Le Bruit du Pollen La Nuit” has a weird kind of synthy 70 s rock feel but the music almost drops out entirely (but not quite) while the vocals (in French) are spoken. It feels like it’s mocking and serious at the same time.  It’s also got a discoey chorus singing “You’re just a just a just a pretty boy!”

“Nada” has a synthy almost disco feel.  “Ça Va Cogner” is just over 5 minutes long and consists of various delicate swells of synths.  I kept waiting to hear The Beach Boys “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” burst forth from the waves, until about half way in when it turns into a simple delicate melody and a children’s chorus. “Les Enfants” is a simple ditty with hummed lyrics.  It’s poppy and catchy as anything

“Ferrari en Feu Pt. 2” is a fast synth songs with slap bass. (Part 1 was on the debut and sounded nothing like this).  “La Nuit Est un Femme” is a slow synth track with a female backing vocals over a sung male lead. The end of the song adds some loud textures to this otherwise sweet song bringing in some really interesting tensions.  The disc ends with “Laisse Briller Tes Yeux Dans le Soleil,” a synthy instrumental that ends with cheesy charm.

This album is really wonderful–surprisingly catchy and dancey and yet exotic enough to not sound like anything else that (most) people are familiar with.  All of the Constellation albums are streaming on their site, but this one is especially worth checking out.

[READ: April 15, 2014] Tales from the Clockwork Empire Book 1

I was very intrigued by this book because of the steampunk nature and because I have a strange fascination with clockwork ideas–a technology that is precise and interesting yet which never really took off beyond clocks and small toys because other technologies were more powerful

I thought that the cover was kind of interesting with this gigantic metal head holding ball.  But on closer look the man in the ball was very poorly computer rendered and that should have been a tip off.  For all of the people in the book have this same unfinished-rendered look.  It looks a lot like storyboards of unfinished versions of Pixar films.  I mean, really cheesy and really unfinished and really unsettling. This is especially noticeable on the rendering of Napoleon Bonaparte in the “end credits” of the book.

I hate to harp on the graphics, but this is a graphic novel after all.  All of the non human elements looks fine, many look even better than fine, bordering on photo realistic.  But the humans all seem ugh, creepy and stiff and just dropped on top of these scenes.  It is terribly distracting and may even make the dialogue feel stiffer than it actually is.  Because the dialogue felt very stiff and mechanical as well.

It is the kind of story that seems historically accurate in the details and works very hard to let you know that it is accurate.  Indeed, in the end of the book Duerden goes to great lengths to show the accuracies in the writing.  But there’s so little flow in the dialogue that it seems like a lecture.  Basically the entire book feels like, not a first draft, but like the draft before the final draft.  Like the book is going to go back to have a final polish to make the dialogue breezier and make the pictures look better.

This is all a shame since I haven;t eve talked about the story yet. (more…)

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