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Archive for the ‘Outer Space’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: ART D’ECCO “Angst in My Pants” (2021).

I saw Art D’ecco open a show a few years ago and I’ve become mildly obsessed with hi.  I’m delighted to see that he’s getting some promotion and success.

His new album In Standard Definition is a great synth pop retro dance infusion.  But in addition to that he has released two standalone covers.

Art D’ecco covering Sparks is a pretty natural decision.  as his label puts it.

The glam rocker premiered his cover of Sparks’ ‘Angst In My Pants’ via FLOOD Magazine earlier today. Art recalls, “Before making my last record I jokingly said to my band, if one more person or media outlet says I sound like Sparks I’m gonna cover them”.

This is a really faithful to the original, including the strained an jocular vocals in the verses.   And the great emphases in the chorus.  It’s modernized with new sounds and production but overall this is faithful and fun cover.  If it introduces fans of one band to the other, then it has done its job.

[READ: June 1, 2021] Colony

After reading Rob Grant’s Red Dwarf books, I discovered that he has written a number of novels in addition.

  • Colony (2000), a science fiction story about a colony that has long since lost its way.
  • Incompetence (2003), a wry detective story set in the near future where it is illegal to discriminate for any reason, even incompetence.
  • Fat (2006), a darkly comic novel about how the media portrays obesity and its effects on today’s society.
  • The Quanderhorn Xperimentations (2018) [based on a radio show that Grant wrote].

So Colony was his first.  It’s interesting how much it connects to Red Dwarf without having anything to do with Red Dwarf.  It’s a sci-fi novel, set millions of years in outer space, with the fate of the human race in the balance.

But barring that, it’s really quite different.  In this book the human race is aware that it is on the verge of extinction, and it is planning for it.  They are loading the best people on to a space ship (the Willflower) that will fly them millions of miles away to a habitable planet.  Those people will have offspring on the ship and several generations later the human race will survive on the new planet. 

But the book starts off by following Eddie O’Hare, a man NOT meant to be on this ship.  He is not one of earth’s best and brightest.  In fact, he is one of the unluckiest men around.  A computer glitch has caused him to lose millions of pounds for the company he works for.  The company believes he stole it.  And they have sent a couple of thugs to retrieve it.

In fact, the thugs just came to his room with the intent of throwing him out the window to his death.  But when they mention something that seems incorrect, they realize that they have the wrong man.  Eddie assumes he’s on that list, he’s just not next on the list–that would be the man in the room next door.  The hit men are darkly comic until they become just dark.

(more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ART D’ECCO-“That’s Entertainment” (2021).

I saw Art D’ecco open a show a few years ago and I’ve become mildly obsessed with hi.  I’m delighted to see that he’s getting some promotion and success.

His new album In Standard Definition is a great synth pop retro dance infusion.  But in addition to that he has released two standalone covers.

This one, a cover of The Jam’s “That’s Entertainment” was a little concerning for me.  This song is one of my all time favorite songs and I’m always nervous when a song like this gets covered.

But Art D’ecco does a great job.  There’s acoustic guitars, a grooving bass line, cool harmony vocals and, best of all, he keeps the way the chorus offers the short “That’s” and the stretched out “en ter tain ment.”  He even does the falsetto note (of course).

But what’s most enlightening about is cover is D’ecco’s voice. He seems to be stretching out of his comfort zone a little and it really shows off how good a singer her really is.

[READ: April 21, 2021] Last Human

I’m not sure what got me on my recent Red Dwarf reading kick (finding out that they had just released a new series was certainly a spark).  I was sure I had read all of these books before and yet none of them were familiar to me at all.

The Grant Naylor team wrote two books and the second one ended on a cliffhanger.

Then for reasons I’m not willing to dig into, both Rob Grant and Doug Naylor each wrote a sequel to that book.  But neither book is like the other and they both go in very different directions.  Naylor’s book was really dark and very violent.  Grant’s was also dark and very violent, but in very different ways.

The previous book ended with an old Lister being sent to a planet where everything goes backwards so that he can de-age to about the same age he was when he was on the series.  They plan to meet him 36 years later at Niagara Falls.

In this book Naylor has the crew place Kochanski’s ashes on the planet Kochanski so she came back to life and she and Lister were able to live their lives backwards together for some thirty years.

But this book opens much further back–to the birth of the first humanoid. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Sonic Boom, Toronto, ON (September 5 2019).

Back in 2007, when the Rheostatics said farewell, who ever would have guessed that they’d be back in a record store for an album release event.  But here they are, playing in a record store and answering a formal Q&A.

For the release of the Here Come The Wolves album the Rheos did a Q&A at the record store Sonic Boom in Toronto with Laurie Brown.  Her interview is included here but the video can be found here.  The band then did a 45 minute set of new songs which may have been the first time since reforming that Hugh Marsh did not play with them as he was in Europe at the time. Luckily Eric Mac Innis traveled to Toronto from the Maritimes for this event and recorded it for everyone to hear.

After a 40 minute interview (which is quite nice), the four guys are going “to try to play the first five (actually six) songs of the record.”  Which is the first side of the record.

They tune up. Martin jokes “this is the Ravi Shankar portion” and DB says “our record is actually a Doors tribute album.  Every song starts in a minor key.”

They start after two minutes with “Vancouver.” The recording is very spare–like they are holding back for the small space.  The entire middle part is instrumental with maybe Dave noodling away until Martin comes back to sing the rest.  The end rocks a bit more.  Martin throws in a hint of a Journey song in the solo.  Tim: “We still haven’t quite learned that one yet.”   DC: “I did.”

“AC/DC On The Stereo” has big guitar chords and a few false intros (it’s weird without High’s violin).  “Rearview” sounds really nice in this setting.

DB: we used to do these things at the Rivoli–live rehearsals.  I’d like to bring that back.  Super fun.  We worked songs out.  It was entertaining for us.  Maybe not the audience.  I remember them being really full and then that thing turned up on YouTube of us spanking Dave Clark on the ass.  The Rivoli was very dark.  [whisper: people deal guns there?  Don’t go downtown, Dave.]  There’s no one–12 of our friends there.  You can buy gum at the Rivoli.

“Here Come The Wolves” is next.  Martin tunes while Dave gives a big drum intro.  Wanna see my tuner?  Here clip this on the head stock.  [Ha ha ha Now that’s comedy].  How you doin?  The song works well.  Everyone claps at the pause and then Martin does his part.

They thank Michael Phillip Wojewoda, Chris Walla, Gus Van Gogh for working on the album and Martin tells a funny story about MPW’s disgusting dreadlock.  Mike has left Dave has known him since he had that beaver-shaped dread in the middle of his hair it had a gray core–it was oxidizing in the middle.  Never leave a Rheostatics shows or the band will tell stories about you.

DC: I was being nice to the guy and you guys are tearing him a new one  Martin: that’s not a new one that’s something he did.  There’s nothing wrong with dreadlocks.  DC: I’m just stirring the pot.  MT: Stirring a big pot of dreadlock stew–it makes a fine broth.  We were on tour with the Dough Boys (Dreadlock Stu).

Next song is by David Clark.  DC: Martin, pick your favorite chord, don’t look.  Martin plays an insane chord and the song starts.  After the song DB: remember that chord, it’s pure gold.

Sympathetic vibrations.  DC starts talking about sympathetic advice he received from a luthier.  never leave your instrument in a case (they die), have them on stands in the noisiest part of the house they will vibrate and stay in tune.  DB says that’s bullshit.  Martin says it’s largely bullshit, but not totally.  Pick up an acoustic guitar that’s been in a case it will sound like shit; pick up a cheap one that’s been out and it will sound good.

DB: You learned that all from a Lutheran?
DC: Yes he nailed it to me.

Buy the record upstairs on the mezzanine level.  They play a jazzy number: buy the record in the mezzanine. How much does it cost?  $1.79.  No, that’s not even the tax.

They end with another song by Tim: “Music is the Message.”  We’re gonna play it and go.  It’s slow and pretty–sounds good, although the backing ahhs are a little crazy.

[READ: June 15, 2021] Void Trip

I saw this book on the shelf at the library and thought the title sounded promising.  The cover also looked pretty cool, so I brought it home.

As the book opens, we see Ana and Gabe stealing fuel from a tanker in the desert.  Gabe is much older than Ana and they seem to be arguing about their (confusing) plans.  They are quickly interrupted by the owner of the truck–a rather large but cute humanoid creature with a furry face.

Ana tells him that space pirates were trying to steal his fuel and she and Gabe frightened them off.  The trucker is grateful for the help but when he is visited soon after by a white robot, he’ll wish he wasn’t so gullible.

Ana and Gabe are the last humans alive (according to the back of the book, although I’m not sure it says that anywhere in the story).  They are headed to Euphoria, a sort of promised land planet.

They stop off at a rest stop where a humanoid elephant with lots of trunks (Ganesh-like) joins them to indulge in froot (various psychedelic drugs).  Mooreberry gives psychedelic experiences; Gaimangos turn everything into a fairytale.  Busiekhini will taste like the best food you’ve ever had.  (Those names are pretty good).  He eats it and hilarious trippiness ensues. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Jackson Triggs, St.Catharines, ON (August 12, 2017).

I have been catching up on the last few remaining recent (relatively) shows that the Rheostatics played.  These are all shows since the release of Here Comes the Wolves.

Great soundboard show from the beautiful Jackson Triggs Winery stage with Kevin Hearn on Keys/vocals and Hugh Marsh on violin. Very chatty show with one of the longest stretches of banter I can recall at over 8 minutes of straight comedy.

The show begins with the spoken introduction from Group of 7 “A tall white pine stands between me and the tree I’m trying to see … also a tall white pine.”  Then Martin starts a gentle “Northern Wish.”  It’s followed by “Legal Age Life” which has a wild keyboard solo.  Kevin continues to shine on a lengthy intro for Dave Clark’s fun new song “Supecontroller.”  It’s kind of a dopey song but it’s one of my favorites.

Kevin says to the audience, Say hello to Dave Clark.”  Dave says Jackson Triggs has treated us fine and gave us all kinds of good food.  (and plenty of wine).

A delicate “Music is the Message with lots of violin including a solo.  Kevin introduces Tim and Dave tells a joke about the difference between a piece of cheese and a piece of string that I don’t get (something about crickets).  And then someone talks about playing and there were crickets after every song–it was pretty rough.
After a boppy “Easy to Be with You,” Kevin plays keys like at an ice skating rink as a segue into a soaring “Stolen Car” with a lengthy solo form Martin and Hugh.
They thank the opening band  Common Deer and say that High and Kevin will be with them all summer long: Hugh Marsh Kevin Hearn Summer Experience.  Tickets: $5.99 at your local fairground.
They mention CDs and Martin in great, funny form says, we’ve lived through many formats.  The wax cylinder the vinyl disc, the compact disc (Tim: “they said they’d never skip but all mine skip now”). Martin: they skip in the most painful, digital…  the universe conspired to make it more annoying than previously existed.  When a vinyl skipped you’d go hmm, weird did they write that like that?  When a CD skips deh deh deh deh deh–a drill to the center of the mind.  Unless you’re a Squarepusher.  Hugh had many intentional skips on his recording–the king of the skip.
Don’t bug Hugh.  Hugh has no way to defend himself except for his instrument.  Sure he does, he’s the best looking dude in the band.  And he’s like 73.
DB says, from 2067 it’s “PIN.”  I really got my FM radio voce on tonight huh?
Dave you’ve always had a voice that is delightful on the radio as when you hosted Brave New Waves in the early sixties?
DB says Dave Clark influenced my life so much when he said “Do you want to be someone playing the bands on the radio or do you want to be the band?”
Martin: That’s very good advice Dave Clark and also demeaning to people who promote  our music and celebrate it.  My opinion of you has changed.  You told that story and now I hate you.  Dave Clark does not have that fulsome overtone.  DC: But Ii have a better personality.  My teeth would have been straight by now.  How does the teeth work into that? CBC benefits! CBC teeth.
That could have been you on Corner Gas.
Dave Clark says he has a show to pitch to the CBC.
Kevin: I have an idea for this show–play the next song.
Kevin plays in Barenaked Ladies and they talk a lot. Kevin was so excited to play with us here as a band who doesn’t go on talking about nonsensical things.
Kevin: You’re even worse.  Dave B: “way worse.”
Martin: Kevin before BNL you were in a band called The Look People   “5 is the number that makes me want to boogie.”
After “PIN,” there’s some scratching sounds and a Mr. Rogers intro into Michael Jackson.   Nice harmonies at the end.
Soaring keys swell for the intro to “California Dreamline.”  Martin gets a little wild singing in the dolphins part.  Keyboard washes segue into “Claire.”
Big shout to those who came down form St. Catharine’s a city that supports the arts.  When I think of Niagara Falls. i think of Dale Morningstar and his shenanigans.  Ron Sexmith
Can I tell you one of Ron Sexsmith’s original jokes?  Hey, did I just sit in maple syrup?  You bet your sweet ass you did.
Kevin: By the way I was told we’re good for time as long as we don’t do any more fifteen minute intros.  Man they run a tight ship around her.
DB to an audience member: Want to come up and model our new shirt?  No I’m not going to sign it now, I’m working.  It says nothing on the back.  You can write your own inspirational phrase on the back.
Kevin: Are you finished?
DB: Yes but I was selling merch it’s important.
MT: This is from Saskatchewan the Musical (that’s bound to be next).  Martin sings:
I don’t know what I’m doing here
I feel so different from everyone else in this town
Saskatchewan.”
Coming in the fall of 2025.
Then martin gets serious, and sings the song properly but sings the end in a slurry drunken way.
Then introduces: “This is Queer: The Musical.”
A jam in the meddle where Kevin plays nearly two minutes of keyboard fills before they jump to the bouncing ending.  It’s followed by a lively “Dope Fiends featuring a lengthy drum solo.
At the end as they sing “dark side of the moooooon,” Tim starts playing Pink Floyd’s “Money.”
After an encore break, Kevin comes out and starts playing pretty chords.  “Shaved Head” sounds very different with gentle keys.
It’s a great summer set and a very fun show.

[READ: April 21, 2021] Backwards

I’m not sure what got me on my recent Red Dwarf reading kick (finding out that they had just released a new series on DVD was certainly a spark).  I was sure I had read all of these books before and yet none of them were familiar to me at all.

The Grant Naylor team wrote two books and the second one ended on a cliffhanger.

Then for reasons I’m not willing to look into, both Rob Grant and Doug Naylor each wrote a sequel to that book.  But neither book is like the other and they both go in very different directions.  Naylor’s book was really dark and very violent.

Grant’s book is also dark but in very different ways.

The previous book ended with an old Lister being sent to a planet where everything goes backwards so that he can de-age to about the same age he was when he was on the series.  They plan to meet him 36 years later at Niagara Falls.

But this book opens with a prologue about Arnold Rimmer aged 7 and how he continues to fail in school.  His teachers suggest he be held back, but his mother interferes and that lets him move on.

Then the book starts properly with the crew of Red Dwarf: Rimmer, Cat and Kryten landing on Reverse World and trying to locate Lister.  Because everything goes in reverse (which takes some time to wrap your head around) all of your actions are predetermined.  And, essentially, if you do something dangerous, you know that if you’re not already hurt, you won’t get hurt because you would be hurt to start with.  What?  You’ve already jumped off the cliff, now, you’re doing it backwards.  But you already landed, so you’d already be hurt and going backwards would un-hurt you.

It also means that you un-eat food, good to sleep when you are refreshed, wake up when you’re tired.  And you don’t even want to think about going to the bathroom. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ACID MOTHERS TEMPLE & THE MELTING PARAISO U.F.O.-The Ripper at the Heaven’s Gates of Dark (2011).

I’m not sure why this era of AMT seems so readily available on CD, but this is another collection of songs from the lineup of Tsuyama Atsushi – monster bass, voice, soprano sax, cimpo flute, soprano recorder, acoustic guitar, cosmic joker Higashi Hiroshi – synthesizer, dancin’king Shimura Koji – drums, latino cool Kawabata Makoto – electric guitar, electric bouzouki, sitar, organ, percussion, electronics, speed guru.

It has 5 songs and comes in at just around 75 minutes.

The album titles tend to be amusing twists on classic rock albums (The Piper at the Gates of Dawn), but usually the music doesn’t sound all that classic rock.  But on this album, they changed that.

“Chinese Flying Saucer” is 12 minutes long and opens with a kind of siren sound going high then low and then a big old guitar riff launches.   It feels like a classic rock riff, but it is original.  When Tsuyama starts singing, the whole thing comes together like a Led Zeppelin tribute.  The riff is classic Zep the vocals (indecipherable as they are) are tally Robert Plant–echoed and high pitched with lots of moaning. There’s even a “Kashmir”-like riff in the middle.  It’s remarkably fun and really accessible.  The big non-Zeppelin moment comes with Kawabata’s solo which is just insanity.

After about four minutes the song shifts gears and takes off for outer space with rumbling bass and soaring keys.  They jam for about five minutes and then return to the initial riff to end the song.

“Chakra 24” is only four minutes long and is a slower sitar based song with raspy vocals.  It’s quite pretty.

But the brevity is soon gone with the fifteen minute “Back Door Man Of Ghost Rails Inn.”  It’s a slow droney song with sitar and lots of keys.  This time when Tsuyama starts singing it’s in a very Jim Morrison style–ponderous and over the top.  There’s even a spoken word part.  Imagine in Morrison’s voice “some people coming here… some people coming here and…” There’s some wild organ trippiness in this song that stretched in ways The Doors never did.

The cleverly titled “Shine on You Crazy Dynamite” is almost 22 minutes long and sounds like old school pink Floyd.  Not “Crazy Diamond” era, but earlier, more like “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun.”  Kawabata’s solos really shine on this one, with squeaky echoes and a metal bars slide up the neck.  The keyboards also sound like Richard Wright.   After 17 minute or so off wild guitar freak out, the guitar fades back a bit to let the pulsing bass take over with the echoing voices continuing to the end.

“Electric Death Mantra” is a twenty minute chill out.  It’s a slower piece with lots of high pitched spacey notes floating around, which Kawabata plays bouzouki and Tsuyama sigs (in his normal style).  With about eight minutes left things get really quiet with a quiet rumbling drums and echoed sounds and notes from the guitar while overdubbed vocals chant and chant.  Then it slowly starts to build up again, with faster and faster bouzouki and Kawabata’s wailing solo.

[READ: May 25, 2021] Rogue Planet

Oni Press was one of my favorite young imprints when I first started reading graphic novels.  Then I lost track of it.  So I was pleased to see this book from them.

I was a little turned off by it because it happened to be one of several books I brought home that just seemed to revel in blood and guts (was there a run on red ink recently?)

The book turned out to be (totally gross) interesting.  And I was pleased with the way it handled a somewhat complicated story in one volume.

The book opens on the rogue planet.  Life on the planet consists of a bunch of ET- looking creatures.  The older one speaks to its son, complimenting him on his intelligence before sacrificing him to the giant crystal that is growing out of the ground.  The giant crystal, which is covered in and surrounded by flesh and eyes and teeth and all kinds of gross stuff.  It’s really horrible-looking. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CARM-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #192 (April 15, 2021).

CJ Camerieri is a co-founder of yMusic, which is how I know him (I saw him perform with Ben Folds).

This is his new project, CARM.  Camerieri is also a member of Paul Simon’s band, a collaborator with Bon Iver and a Tiny Desk alum. (You can hear his French horn with The Tallest Man On Earth from their 2019 Tiny Desk Concert.)

“Soft Night” is the first track and introduces us to what CARM is about.  He plays trumpet while Trever Hagen plays electronics and sets up the melody and drums.  Then Camerieri switches to French horn while Hagen plays some trumpet.  Then in a fun moment, Camerieri picks up the trumpet with his right whole still holding the French horn in his left.  He plays the trumpet melody and then puts down the trumpet and starts on the French horn.  For the rest of this five-minute instrumental, the two jump back and forth playing trumpet riffs and leads as the electronics build satisfyingly.

For CJ Camerieri … home is where the art is. He performed his concert at the Pablo Center in Eau Claire, Wisc., where [he] conceived and recorded all the songs for his 2021 debut solo album, CARM. “This particular community has been a really big part of my musical life for 10 years,” CJ says after playing the calming tune “Soft Night,” “so it seems like the perfect place to be doing this.”

He made “Song of Trouble” with Sufjan Stevens.  They wrote it before the pandemic but the lyrics have taken on new meaning.  S. Carey plays piano and sings.  This is another mellow song with some lovely muted trumpet and simple electronics backing the song.

“Nowhere” is a little stranger.  It opens with jittery trumpet and skittery and loud electronics.  The juxtaposition of the organic horns and the electronic instruments is very cool.

“Slantwise” opens with some rapid and wild drum loops.  Then Camerieri loops the French horn and trumpet giving the song a rather majestic feel.

[READ: May 11, 2021] A Complicated Love Story Set in Space

The librarian in West Windsor recommended this book to my son.  He didn’t read it, but I loved the title and was really interested in reading it.

And wow, did I enjoy it.

I have not read anything by Hutchinson before, so I’m not sure how this compares to his other books, but this was, indeed, a very complicated love story.  In the acknowledgments Hutchinson says that originally the story was called Gays in Space.  And while that is a fun title, I think the final title is wonderfully compelling.

The story opens on Noa.  Noa is a normal teenager from Seattle.  But he has just woken up and he finds himself in a spacesuit, floating outside of a spaceship.  He has no recollection of how he got there.  There’s a note that says “You are in space floating outside a ship called Qriosity.  There is no reason to panic.”

Well, thank goodness for that.

After getting his bearings, a voice speaks to him.  The voice is from a teenaged boy named DJ.  DJ is from Florida and he is aboard the Qriosity.  He also has no idea how he got there.

They are each tasked with a pressing problem and if they don’t fix them immediately, the ship will explode.  Noa panics (as he tends to do) but DJ calms him and talks to him as they work together to fix the ship.  Which they do.  But as Noa is heading to the airlock, his tether is not attached and he is flung from the ship.  He has nowhere near enough oxygen and soon enough, he is dead.

That’s a rough start for the protagonist of the story. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKACID MOTHERS TEMPLE & THE MELTING PARAISO U.F.O.-Lord of the Underground: Vishnu and the Magic Elixir (2009).

A lot of AMT music sounds vaguely similar with Kawabata’s wild guitar noodling (and because they always play “Pink Lady Lemonade”) but this album really changes things up because Kawabata plays the bouzouki, saz and sitar which adds a Middle Eastern flavor to the proceedings.

There’s three songs on this album, one really short one, one really long one and one really really really long one.  The lineup is the same as other albums from this period, although the instrumentation has changed a bit:

  • Tsuyama Atsushi: monster bass, voice, acoustic guitar, alto recorder, flute, toy trumpet, kazoo, cosmic joker
  • Higashi Hiroshi: synthesizer, dancin’king
  • Shimura Koji: drums, latino cool
  • Kawabata Makoto: electric guitar, bouzouki, saz, sitar, organ, percussion, speed guru

“Eleking the Clay” is fourteen minutes long.  Kawabata plays a simple, fast, rocking riff on the bouzouki while Tsuyama Atsushi sings along.  At around five minutes Kawabata starts a wild solo while the rest of the band continues chugging along.  Near the end the keys take over and the bass starts going predictably wild.  It’s interesting to hear the familiar mixed with the new here.

“Sorcerer’s Stone of the Magi” is a short guitar piece at just under 4 minutes.  Acoustic guitar chords and a lead sitar play a bouncing melody while the singer sings along.  The track is full of bird song and chatter in the background.  A lovely pastoral piece.

“Vishnu and the Magic Elixir” is the monster song on this album at over 25 minutes long.  It starts off slowly with single notes on the sitar but the echoing notes almost give it a Western feel at the same time.  The trippy synth sounds make the song sound like Middle East meets the Old West in outer space.

Tsuyama starts adding in pig snorts and mocking laughter after and around 6 minutes some growling and singing are followed by the kazoo (!).  By around ten minutes the song starts to pick up the tempo with the bass really taking the lead and meandering around.  Kawabata’s solo starts to get intense around this time as well.  Then Tsuyama throws in some toy trumpet.  Things build and build and by 17 minutes it’s a full on wild freak out that lasts almost until the end of the song.  Although by 25 minutes the song stats to fade with echoing notes giving the song a proper ending.

And, yes, I don’t really know the difference between a bouzouki and a saz, so I could be wrong about what he’s playing.

[READ: May 1, 2021] “A Tranquil Star”

This very short story was translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein.

The story concerns a star and its observer.  The star was a peaceful star and it was very big and very hot.  But words are meaningless on this scale, right?  Australia is very far, an elephant is very big, I can have a hot bath.

The thing was though, that the star was not so tranquil.  It was just hard to observe from earth.   Arab and Chinese astronomers were aware of the star, but Europeans were too busy with earthly pursuits to notice.  The Arab watched it for 30 years and watched how it performed differently at different times.

But when he died, the star took no notice. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CLIPPING-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert Meets SXSW: #190 (April 5, 2021).

Every year, NPR Music participates in the SXSW music festival, whether it’s curating a stage or simply attending hundreds of shows at the annual event in Austin, Texas. Last year, the festival was canceled due to the pandemic, but it returned this March as an online festival. We programmed a ‘stage’ of Tiny Desk (home) concerts and presented them on the final day of the festival. Now, we present to you Tiny Desk Meets SXSW: four videos filmed in various locations, all of them full of surprises.

clipping. is an intense band.  I had the pleasure of seeing them live opening for the Flaming Lips.  I was hoping to see them again before the pandemic hit.  This Tiny Desk doesn’t in any way replicate a live show because they play a little visual trick on the viewer–and they keep it up for the whole set.

Leave it to clipping. to innovate around the central notion of the Tiny Desk; to take the series’ emphasis on close-up intimacy and transport it to new heights of, well, tininess.

clipping is a dark, violent band

Producers William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes craft a bed of hip-hop, industrial music and noisy experimentalism, then set loose rapper Daveed Diggs, whose violent imagery summons ’90s horrorcore and a thousand bloody movies. The band’s last two album titles — There Existed an Addiction to Blood and Visions of Bodies Being Burned — offer up a sense of the vibe, but Diggs’ gift for rapid-fire wordplay also acts as a leavening agent.

That’s right, Daveed Diggs.

The guy won a Tony Award for playing Thomas Jefferson and the Marquis de Lafayette in Hamilton, and he still knows how to sell every word that leaves his lips.

So it’s especially amusing to see them have a lot of fun with the Tiny Desk (Home) Concert.  The video opens with a few scenes of tables and gear.  But when the show starts, Daveed Diggs picks up a microphone that’s about the size of a toothpick and starts rapping into it.

  And when William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes come in they are playing laptops and other gear that’s barely an inch in length. I have to assume that this stuff doesn’t actually work and yet they are taking their job very seriously–touching and sliding and tapping and looping on these preposterous toys.

“Something Underneath” starts quietly and then Diggs shows off some of is incredibly fast rapping skills.  Then the guy on the right (I’m not sure who is who) comes into the cameras and starts messing with his tiny gear.  After about 2 minutes the guy on the left comes in and starts making all kinds of distorted beats.  It starts getting louder and louder and louder until the noise fades out and its just Diggs’ voice looping “morning” as he moves the camera and he starts the slower track

The only movement in the video is Diggs moving his camera around to different angles for each song.

“Bout That” is fairly quite until a few minutes in when the song launches off.

Diggs shifts his camera and is finally fully on screen before they start the creepy “Check the Lock.”  It’s got clanking and scratching and pulsing noises for the line

something in this room didn’t used to be / he ain’t ever scared tough / but he check the lock every time we walks by the door.

Midway through the guy on the left starts cranking a tiny music box and he plays it through the next two songs.

It segues into “Shooter” [is there a name for this style of rapping–each line has a pause and a punchline–I really like it].

The music box continues into “The Show” which starts to build louder and louder, getting more an more chaotic.  It fades and builds noisier and chaotic once more until it reduces to a simple beat.  And the guy on the right drinks from his can of BEER.

Noisy squealing introduces “Nothing Is Safe.”  Daveed is pretty intense as he raps “death comes for everyone” pause and then full on sound as he resumes.

clipping is not for everyone–certainly not for people who want to see the guy from Hamilton (he was doing clipping before Hamilton, by the way).  But it creates an intense mood.

The blurb says that Chukwudi Hodge plays drums, but I didn’t see or hear any so i assume that’s a mistake.

[READ: April 21, 2021] Better Than Life

I don’t recall when I started watching Red Dwarf–some time in the 90s, I suspect.  I don’t even know of the show was ever very poplar here in the States, so it’s kind of a surprise that these two Red Dwarf novels even had a U.S. release.  But they did. And I bought them sometime when they came out.

So Grant Naylor is the cleverly combined names of Rob Grant and Doug Naylor–back when they were working together (I’m not sure why one of them left).   They penned two Red Dwarf books together, then they each wrote a Red Dwarf book separately.

This second book picks up from where the events of the previous book cliffhangered us.  There is a TV episode called “Better Than Life” and this book is kind of an super- mega-hyper-expanded version of that episode.  Except that the things that happened in the episode don’t even really happen in the book, either.

The basics of the episode are that Better Than Life is a video game that allows your deepest subconscious fantasies to come true.  And since everything is your fantasy, this game is indeed Better Than Life.  It’s easy to leave the game.  All you have to do is want to.  But who would want to leave a game when everything in it is better than what you’d be leaving it for?

As such, your body stars to wither and decay because you don’t eat, you don’t move, you just exist.  It’s a deadly game.

Rimmer’s fantasy at the end of the first book was that he had married a supermodel–a gorgeous babe whom every man wanted.  Except that she wouldn’t let him touch her for insurance reasons.  Rimmer has a problem or thirty with his self image.  But he was still super wealthy and women everywhere adored him. However as this book opens, he has divorced his babe and married a boring woman who also doesn’t want to have sex with him.  As thing move along, he loses his fortune and, ultimately his hologrammatic body.  He becomes just a voice.  Through a serious of hilarious mistakes, he winds up in the body of a woman.

One of the nice aspects of this book is that Grant Naylor have Rimmer see what a douchey sexist man he’s been all this time–believing all women were either his mother or a sex bomb.

The Cat’s scenario is pretty much all libido–Valkyrie warriors serving him and he gets to do pretty much whatever he wants–his clock doesn’t have times, it has activities: nap, sex, eat, nap, sleep, etc.

The one difference is that Kryten is there with him.  Kryten’s deepest fantasy is leaning, and so he keeps finding new things to clean in Cat’s world.

There’s another wonderful bit of anti-religion in this book (there’s always some anti-religion aspect in these stories).  In this one they talk about Silicon Heaven.

The best way to keep the robots subdued was to give them religion. … almost everything with a hint of artificial intelligence was programmed to believe that Silicon Heaven was he electronic afterlife….

If machines served their human masters with diligence and dedication, they would attain everlasting life in mechanical paradise when their components finally ran down.

At last they had solace. They were every bit as exploited as they’d always been, but now they believed there was some kind of justice at the end of it.

Lister’s fantasy is the same as it was before.  He’s living in the city from It’s a Wonderful Life and he’s married to Kristine Kochanski and he has two boys.  As the book opens there’s  a wonderfully touching moment with his family and his kids.

But it is abruptly demolished when a woman driving a tractor trailer crashes the truck in to Bedford Falls.  Literally all of Bedford Falls–every building is demolished or caught on fire.  There’s virtually nothing left.  And when the woman gets out of the truck dressed as  a prostitute and claims to know Lister, well, Kristine takes their boys and leaves him.  He has nothing.

It should come as no surprise that the woman is actually Rimmer.

What about Holly, the ship’s computer with an IQ of 6,000?  Can’t he save them?  Well, no.  He can’t get into the game, plus, he’s going a little crazy from being alone for so long.  So crazy in fact that he decides to start talking to Talkie Toaster, a gag gift that Lister bought for $19.99.

The sequence with the toaster is hilarious on the show (it only wants to talk about bready products!) and it translates perfectly to the book as well.  Essentially, Talkie Toaster encourages Holy to increase his IQ (which has been slowly leaking away) at the risk of shortening his life span.  Unfortunately, things go a little awry and Holly’s IQ eclipses 12,000. But his run time is cut to a number if minutes.

So he need to turn everything off if he wants to stay alive. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: VOIVOD-Lost Society (2020).

Voivod have been around for over 30 years.  In that time, they’ve releases only four lives albums.  The first one was from the period when their original and current singer had departed, so that doesn’t really count.  In 2011 they released Warriors of Ice, a live album that featured the reunited original lineup minus deceased guitarist Piggy.  The third was a limited release from the 2011 Roadburn Festival.

Thus, we have this new release to acknowledge the excellence of their 2018 album The Wake.  This show was recorded at Quebec City Summer Fest on July 13, 2019.  I saw them on this tour on April 5, 2019.  The setlist was largely the same, although they played more in their hometown (and I would have loved to see “Astronomy Domine”).

Being in front of a hometown crowd has the band fully energized.  It also allows Snake to speak French to the audience, which is fun.

Most of Voivod’s music is really complicated and difficult (the chords that Piggy and now Chewy came up with are pretty hard to imagine).  And yet they play everything perfectly.  There’s not a lot of room for jamming when the songs are this tight and complex, but it’s clear the band are enjoying themselves anyway.

Since this is touring their new album, the majority of songs (4) are from it with two more songs from their 2016 EP Post Society.  The rest of the set is pretty much a song from each of the albums prior to 1993 (excluding the album with the best name: Rrröööaaarrr).

They interfile the new songs with the older ones, and it feels really seamless.  This shows how much of a student of Piggy new guitarist Chewy turned out to be.

The few times that Snake speaks in English, he says that Angel Rat’s “The Prow” is “time to dance time to party have fun” something one wouldn’t expect to do at a Voivod show, but compared to their other songs, it is pretty dancey.

My favorite Voivod album (aside from The Wake, which is really outstanding) is Nothingface, so I was really excited to hear “Into My Hypercube” and to hear that Rocky’s bass sounded just right.

Their older stuff is a little less complex and proggy so a song like 1987’s “Overreaction” is a bit heavier and straight ahead.

One of the more entertaining moments is during the opening of “The Lost Machine” where Snake stands between Chewy and Rocky and waves his arms to strum the chords first guitar, then bass, then guitar then bass, etc.

It is strange to think that this is only one-half of the classic line up.  In fact, drummer Away is the only person to have never left the band.  I assumed that when Piggy died, there was no point in continuing, but these replacements were really great.

And, Snake makes sure we never forget Piggy.  They end every show with the song that has the same name as the band.  And before they play it, he starts a chant “Piggy! Piggy!”  In this live recording, you can hear the audience screaming along to “voivod,” a nonsensical word that remains strong thirty-five years on.

The setlist for the album is at the bottom of the post.  I sure hope they tour around here again someday.

[READ: April 20, 2021] Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers

I don’t recall when I started watching Red Dwarf–some time in the 90s, I suspect.  I don’t even know if the show was ever very poplar here in the States, so it’s kind of a surprise that these two Red Dwarf novels even had a U.S. release.  But they did. And I bought them (and read them, I think, although it’s all new to me 30 years later) sometime when they came out.

So Grant Naylor is the cleverly combined names of Rob Grant and Doug Naylor–back when they were working together (I’m not sure why one of them left).   They penned two Red Dwarf books together, then they each wrote a Red Dwarf book separately.

This first one is basically an expanded version of some of the episodes from the first and second season.

Most of the jokes from the episodes are present here–so it’s easy to picture the characters saying the lines.  But there’s also a ton of new stuff.  Much of it fleshes out things that happened in the show, but still other things are brand new.

The book starts with the death of a Red Dwarf crew member.  He is now a hologram and rather than being excited about being alive, he is horrified to think of all the things his wife will get up to now that he is dead but aware of what is happening.  We also meet another man who is about to die–this time by suicide.  He is in debt for a lot of money and decided it was better than being beaten to death by the men he owed money to.

Turns out, this man outranked the first man and since the Red Dwarf mining ship could only support one hologram, this man was brought back at the expense of the first one.  A lot of ground is covered in these first two chapters and we haven’t even met any of the main characters of the show yet.

Dave Lister comes along in Chapter 3.  For those unfamiliar with the show, Dave Lister is the main character and also the last human being alive.  In the show he is three million years into deep space.  But he had been in stasis so he is only 27 when he is brought out and told the news that everyone is dead.

But as the book starts, Lister is miserable on a planet Mimas.  He got really drunk at his birthday party in Liverpool and, by the end of the night, he was on a planet very far from home with no money to get back. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK2 CHAINZ-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #170 (February 17, 2021).

I’ve never heard of 2 Chainz, but I love that his Tiny Desk comes from Pamper Atlanta–his nail salon!

He’s a pretty fascinating dude

Colored in royalty, neon hues of lavender, fuchsia and violet, in his high-end nail studio Pamper (yes, he owns it, and he’s not shy about letting you know), 2 Chainz is feeling himself throughout his five-song set. Getting a champagne-soaked pedicure, rolling one and periodically shouting out his sixth and latest studio album, So Help Me God!, the rapper exudes Black excellence in the way of luxurious comfortability.

“Southside HOV” is a fascinating brag track with lines like

I’m from the gutter, diamonds studded, I am too for real
Name another rapper that got a Versace shoe deal

His unbridled braggadocio so clearly comes from the freedom of security after being denied opportunities, not just individually but generationally.

He ends the song with a statement to the little ones:  “Listen carefully, this is a grown man speaking to you … pedicure in this bitch. too.”

“Vampire” is another new song that he casually raps while getting his legs massaged.

Then the set jumps to another room with 2 Chainz sitting in the spotlight as his partially obscured band plays.

He rewinds the clock and samples [his] stacked discography (“Good Drank,” “I’m Different”)

“Good Drank” has a grooving bass line from Tyler Sherard with some cool soloing from Josh Sneed.  “I’m Different” opens with a quiet piano melody from Mark Polynice–it’s almost like a horror movie.  Most of the songs have a chill rap style, but in the middle of this one he really lets it fly for a verse–rather impressive.  There’s some great drumming from Alex Turner on this track too.

The set ends with “Grey Area” and good grief with these lyrics, so much for inspirational).

All this sh- that I have done, I can not believe in karma (yeah)
Old enough to be your Daddy
Young enough to f- your Mama (boom, boom, boom!)
Young enough to f- your sister, young enough to f- your auntie
I ain’t messing with your Grannie, I just juuged her out them Xannies (true!)

It’s surprising then, that he gets all thoughtful at the end of the set.  As Polynice plays some backing chords, 2 Chainz says “Let me inspire.”

“There are a lot of people who have been moving the needle forward for Black people. And they have been for some time,” says an earnest, almost plaintive 2 Chainz. In a heart-filled sermon, he cites Martin Luther King Jr., Tyler Perry and Puffy as trailblazers, practicing gratitude for Black leaders who inspire him and the world at large. It’s a sober moment of euphoria — and a drastic shift from the first 17 minutes of the Grammy winner’s flashy Tiny Desk.

When thinking of inspirations he thinks of Martin Luther King, Jr. “I played from M.L.K.” he says (this must be metaphorical since King died almost ten years before Chainz was born).  Then when asked to name names of black people “who are currently like breathing and accessible in entertainment and tech” he says there’s so many who have inspired him he really can’t think of any names, even though there are so many black billionaires … “their names logged in my phone.”

The jump from M.L.K. to Tyler Perry may be the only time that connection was ever made.  But at the end he admits

I wasn’t specific when answering the question.  I just said what my heart told me to say.

But damn, if Pamper Atlanta doesn’t look really nice.

[READ: March 31, 2021] Klawde: Evil Alien Cat 3

While I enjoyed Book 2, I thought that Book 3 was a bit more fun.

Because it has dogs!

Raj’s parents are heading to Hawaii for a dental conference (Raj’s dad is a dentist, which you know because he is wearing a “plaque is wack” shirt.  Dad said it was work, but Raj was pretty jealous.  He wasn’t allowed to go because he was in school.  And that could mean only one thing: his ajji (grandma) was going to come stay with him.  Ajji was old-school Indian and brought three suitcases worth of cooking supplies.  And a dog.

Ajji doesn’t have a dog, but she was foster sitting this fluffy creature named Wuffles and brought it with her.  Since Wuffles needed a seat, Raj’s appi (grandfather) had to stay home!

Obviously Klawde is not happy to see that the “mortal enemy of all felines” was going to stay with them (the drawing of Wuffles on the “mortal enemies” page is hilariously adorable.  As Klawde sneaked up to get a better look, Wuffles exploded, snarling and barking right in Klawde’s face.

Klawde surveys the creature from atop the fridge:  It has the good sense to walk on four legs and has proper anatomical parts: fur, tail, whiskers and claws. But the whiskers were short (and couldn’t possibly be intergalactic sensors) and the ears were flopped over–clearly broken. (more…)

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