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Archive for the ‘Short Story’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: BILL CALLAHAN-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #77 (September 9, 2020).

Bill Callahan has been making music for thirty years (half of them as the band Smog).  He has a deep, calming voice.

His songs are slow and almost spoken word.  They might even start to put you to sleep until you start listening to his lyrics.

For his Tiny Desk (home) concert, Bill Callahan stands outside his home, near a desk adorned with a taller-than-usual globe, two books and a single banana. [They play] three songs from Gold Record, which came out just last week [as well as an older song, “Released”].

“Pigeons” starts with Callahan saying “Hi, I’m Johnny Cash,” and, with his deep voice you might be inclined to believe it.  The music comes in with a picked guitar intro and Callahan’s slow delivery of this engaging story:

Well, the pigeons ate the wedding rice
And exploded somewhere over San Antonio
I picked up the newlyweds and asked them
Where they wanted to go
They said “We don’t care, we don’t know, anywhere, just go”

Outside of Concan, the groom noticed the gold band on my left hand
And said “You got any advice for us, old man?”
Well, I thought for a mile, as I drove with a smile
Then I said when you are dating, you only see each other
And the rest of us can go to hell
But when you are married, you’re married to the whole wide world
The rich, the poor
The sick and the well
The straights, and the gays
And the people who say we don’t use these terms these days
The salt and the soil
After I’d said my piece
We drove on in silence for a spell
How my words had gone over, I couldn’t tell
Potent advice or preachy as hell
But when I see people about to marry
I become something of a plenipotentiary
I just think it’s good as you probably can tell

Midway through, the song turns into a bouncy waltz for a few bars.  Then it returns to that slow picking of the verses.  Derek Phelps adds trumpet accompaniment and Matt Kinsey plays a lot of guitar lines that act as mini solos as well as dramatic bass lines.

He says he wrote “Released” a few years ago but it seems more and more appropriate every day.  The dramatic guitar opening is great and Kinsey’s lead fills add a lot of depth to this simple opening.

The music gets really loud and dramatic as he sings the middle part (italicized below), before the song returns to that gentle, vaguely Mexican sounding (especially with the muted trumpet) melody.

The lyrics are a short poem

Like two wrestlers
I am mostly still
As the Four Horsemen
Come over the hill
Trying to pass themselves off as the Holy Trinity
When any fool can see
Any fool can see
Everything is corrupt
From the shoes on our feet
To the way we get fucked
Oh, I know that we are free
Don’t tell me again that we are free
Tell me, when will we be released?
Released

“Another Song” is a bit faster even if his vocals aren’t

I keep coming back to a lyric from “Another Song,” which he performs here: “Lonesome in a pleasant way.” We’re all a little bit more lonesome than usual right now, but we’re lonesome together. Maybe that feels OK, pleasant even.

It’s quite catchy.  It’s also fairly short except for the coda which is louder than anything else as it builds with the repetition of the title.

“The Mackenzies” is another story song.  It’s sweet and sad and comforting and painful.  And the tempo rises and falls accordingly.  Kinsey’s lead guitar lines throughout the verses are really something delightful as are Phelp’s trumpet additions.

The blurb ends with a nice sentiment from Bill.

Callahan, in the zone during this performance, shares so few words between songs that we decided to follow up and ask what he’s been feeling about his world today.

“There are a lot of voices these days. So many that, I think, even positive sentiments become detrimental in their deafening number,” Callahan explains. “Quiet reflection can be the clearest and most informative and soothing voice you’ll ever hear. There are many unknowns at this time in history. It’s more than a junction in our old world. It’s the possibility of a whole new world. A large part of me believes this. Listen to music, read books, talk to friends and family. Don’t listen to the voices, not even mine!”

[READ: September 8, 2020] “The Husbands”

This story is about Maggie, a woman who likes to sleep with other women’s husbands.  She knows it’s not healthy (mentally or physically) but she does it anyway.

She started with her sister’s husband.  She had dated Patrick in high school.  Then they broke up and her sister, Sarah, dated and then married him.  That’s not why she sleeps with Patrick now (probably).

She has slept with her best friend’s husband, her librarian’s husband, many other husbands.

Most of them are one of, but the thing with Patrick has been going on for quite a while.  She even flew with Patrick to Texas for a weekend. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PROTOJE-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #76 (September 7, 2020).

Protoje is another reggae singer (who I’d never heard of before this Tiny Desk) who seems to be breaking the mold of what reggae sounds like.

Protoje is a not-so-secret treasure who’s been a vital force in the reggae revival movement these last several years. Perched in the hills of Irish Town on the fringe of Kingston, Protoje welcomes us into his backyard (which doubles as The Habitat Studio) for a uniquely fresh spin on a Tiny Desk (home) Concert. With a custom-designed set flanked by lush greens and mountains in the distance, this creative backdrop complements the uplifting feeling of Protoje’s music.

He performs three songs from his fifth album In Search of Lost Time and ends his set with an older song.

“Deliverance” has a loud bassline from Donald Dennis and an electronic drum sound from Peter Samaru.  Protoje sings and raps with a really fast delivery.

He speaks to his spiritual philosophy and faith on “Deliverance” with a chorus stating, “I hold my order, give my praises / Oh Jah, deliver me through these days, Jah deliver me / Sometimes really hard to go and face it / Oh this life can truly be amazing, amazing.”

The song is catchy and uplifting.

I really like that Lamont Savory is playing an acoustic guitar.  It’s never obtrusive.  In fact it often fades into the background, but it’s always there keeping the rhythm and melody afloat.  As the song ends he walks over to Sean Roberts and starts messing around on Roberts’ looping box.

“Strange Happenings” opens with Savory’s quiet, pretty guitar melody.  I usually find reggae to be samey and kind of dull, but these songs have a lot of vitality.  And lyrically they are sweet and powerful.

to me life was easy, it was just fun and games
Until I saw that people were filled with so much pain
It’s harder to share sometimes, easier to pretend
The way we treat each other, I just don’t comprehend

And then it came as a surprise to me that Sean Roberts busted out a violin and began playing a kind of mournful solo.

“Same So” has the standard reggae rhythm but the bass line is a bit more interesting.  It feels warm and inviting–much like the place where he is playing (which seems so placid it almost looks like a photograph backdrop).

After joking that “this is awkward” he proposes one more song.

He wraps his performance with his most recognizable chart-topping hit, “Who Knows,” which featured Chronixx on the original recording.

This song also has a pretty guitar opening and Protoje singing in a high, soft register.

Who knows / I just go where the trade wind blows / sending love to my friends and foes.

A message of peace in a time of hostility,

[READ: September 5, 2020] “What is Remembered”

In this story Meriel and her husband Pierre are getting ready to go to a funeral.  They had to come travel to Vancouver from Vancouver Island and it was their first night in a hotel alone since their wedding night–they always traveled with their children.

This was their second funeral as a married couple.  The first was a fellow teacher of Pierre’s.  He was in his sixties and they felt that that was okay.  What difference did it make if you died at sixty-five or seventy-five or eighty-five?

But this funeral was for Pierre’s best friend Jonas–aged twenty-nine.  When she told Pierre that Jonas had died, Pierre immediately guessed suicide.  But no, it was a motorcycle accident.  Why had he been so certain it was a suicide?

They went to Jonas’ parents house for the reception.  There’s an amusing sequence with Pierre’s mother treating Pierre like a child.  But then Pierre’s mother and Jonas’ mother were distracted by the doctor who had looked after Jonas. They both approved of the man. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SONIC YOUTH-Live At Brixton Academy (December 14, 1992).

Sonic Youth (well, more accurately, Steve Shelley) has been releasing all kinds of old Sonic Youth releases on bandcamp.  I used to collect a lot of Sonic Youth stuff, so this should scratch all kinds of itches.

However, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve been less “gotta-catch-’em-all” about stuff like this.  Plus, there’s something so impermanent about digital releases, that it sort of doesn’t count.

Nevertheless, I was pleased to see this live recording because this is my favorite era of Sonic Youth.  I first really got into them with Goo and Dirty so this show really pushes all the buttons for me.  Sonic Youth is the one band I really regret never seeing live (especially after having seen Thurston Moore solo–his show was fantastic, so I can’t imagine how good a full band show would have been).  This era would have been the one I would have most wanted to see.

Recorded live on the first of two December nights in 1992 at the Brixton Academy in London, near the end of Sonic Youth’s European tour with Pavement and Cell. This concert was recorded and broadcast by the BBC, and then subsequently widely-bootlegged. This sound-recording is from the band’s own audio master of the December 14th concert and includes performances not broadcast by the BBC or on bootlegs.

The set opens with a little jazzy sax intro music.  The band starts playing some feedback noise and then after a minute and a half Steve Shelley starts the nifty drum pattern for “Shoot.”  Then comes the recognizable bass line and guitar noises before Kim starts whispering the lyrics.  Her voice sound rough and whispery.  It segues into “100%” with a wall of noise and scraping guitars.  I always enjoyed the noises that this song throws around the simple riff.  It’s not as controlled as on the record, but it’s all there–I’d have loved to see this live.

This set feel like a greatest hits to me, perhaps because of how much I like these albums.  To segue from “100%” to “Dirty Boots” is terrific. This song sounds fantastic live–some wild guitar noises from both Thurston and Lee and some really intense drumming from Steve in the middle.  This basically means that Kim is holding the whole song together.

“Kool Thing” starts up–once again the guitars duplicate the record remarkably well for a sound that I don’t understand how its made.  Kim’s delivery is unusual here–she seems strained and like she’s improving things (unless that’s just how she sings).

Thurston sends “Swimsuit Issue” out to Cass from the Senseless fucking Things.  The noisy guitars coordinate with the rumbling drums as Kim growls through the song.

“I Love Her all the Time” has what I assume is a loop of guitar noise that is a sort of the bedroock for Kim and Steve’s rhythm. The song is slowly sung until the middle freakout–another thing I wish I’d seen live.  During the end part as Thurston whisper-sings the lyrics, someone (Lee?) is making terrific waves of noise and feedback.

Lee sings “Genetic” and his song adds such a nice distinction–a catchy song with a great melody.  It’s a shame this is his only song of the show.

“There’s a Sound World” is a another slower Thurston song.  It’s followed by “Tom Violence” which is dedicated to Richard Hell (who I assume was not there).

Then Thurston says “I’m pretty happy for the freedom and liberation of Princess Diana.  [I had to do a little historical digging, because i thought he was talking about her death, which seemed really harsh.  But she made news in 1992 when she divorced Prince Charles.]  “She should never have married that fucking asshole.  But her baby is the king.  And this is for her, this is called “Sugar Cane.” It’s catchy and smooth with some great noises.   There’s a quiet jamming session in the middle with them quietly getting their guitars to ring out.  At the end of the song it sounds liek Thurston says “you’re way out of tune there.”  This is fascinating given the noise that just came out.

They follow it with a bunch of guitar gibberish as a way of introduction to the simple and catchy “Shizophrenia.”  The middle has a fun juxtaposition of gentle harmonics and noises.   The end of the song sounds like a manic saxophone solo and drums–presumably prerecorded.

Thurston thanks Pavement and Cell [what a bill!].  He says they’ll be back tomorrow if any of you have enough money to afford it. Huggy Bear are playing tomorrow.

Then he introduces the next song: “This is an anti police song called “Drunken Butterlfy.”  It starts off but immediately crashes Thurston says “I’m not drunk” and Kim says “You mentioned that world police and it put total bad juju all over the fucking song.”  I always enjoyed the presumably Doors-mocking chorus of “I love you. I love you. I love you.  What’s your name.”  I also absolutely love the short feedback noise that separates the chorus from the verses.  I’m so glad its duplicated here. Sometimes you never know if the noises are purposeful or just happy accidents.

The song is fairly short and the band leaves for an encore break with a wall of low end feedback and crashing sounds–I assume it was deafening.

The band comes back to start “JC.”  This slow song features Kim singing and a lot of scraping and noisy elements especially during the stretched-out middle section.

Up next is the anti-white power song “Youth Against Fascism.”  He says it’s an anti-Skrewdriver song.  I’ve never met the guys from Skrewdriver.  They might be nice guys but they sound like fucking assholes.”  Skrewdriver is  neo-Nazi band I’m glad I’ve never heard of before.  “Y.A.F.” has the most explicitly political and clear lyrics of all of them.

Then he says he’d like to send this song out to Sinead–I believe you.  I can’t recall what was happening with her at the time.  “Expressway to yr Skull” is the final song.  It starts slowly and turns into glorious noise fest.  The first part of the is loud and brash.  The second half slows things down with the guys manipulating feedback and Steve hitting the occasional cymbal.  I’m sure Kim is creating feedback, but she’s still adding some low end rumble to the noise.  This song is listed as 14 minutes but the noise ends around 11.  It’s replaced by a really beautiful acoustic guitar piece.  No credit is given to the creator. I wonder who it is.

This is a great live concert document.  It sounds great and is like a greatest hits for me.

[READ: September 7, 2020] “Flashlight”

This story concerns Louisa.  She is a young girl who is suddenly afraid of the dark.

Her mother is in a wheelchair and Louisa been punishing her in subtle ways.  Mostly by being distant.  The first time, when her mother came to say goodnight “she couldn’t stand another second of her mother being there,” peering in through the cracked door.  From that moment on she has said every night, “close it all the way please.”  It was satisfyingly hurtful without being wrong.

Then she would lie in bed listening to her mother wheel away.  When she was safely far enough away, she would get out of bed and reopen the door a crack.

On this night she overheard voices talking about sending her to a child psychologist.

The therapist was nice, the room was friendly, but Louisa wasn’t having any of it. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BENEVENTO/RUSSO DUO-Best Reason To Buy The Sun (2005).

I’ve become a huge fan of Marco Benevento over the last few years.  When I saw that he was releasing these earlier records with Joe Russo (of Joe Russo’s Almost Dead) I was intrigued.

This set up is indeed a duo.  It’s just Russo on drums and Benevento on all manner of keyboard sounds.  (There are a couple of guests later in the record).  The sound is really full–Marco’s low end is fat and heavy and never wavers no matter what melodies he plays.

This album is all instrumental and there’s quite a lot of diversity in the sounds.  Most of the songs are relatively short (around the 4 minute mark), but a few do stretch out.

The disc opens with “Becky” which has a great funky bass and drums.  There’s some typically weird sounds from Russo’s drums to start (showing that he’s not only going to be keeping time) and a nice distortion filter on the keys.  “Welcome Red” starts with accordion!  It morphs into a slow grooving song with a pretty melody that’s accompanied by bells.  “Sunny’s Song” is brighter and bouncier with a pretty main riff on the keys and the bells.  Half way through the song gets bigger and it rocks harder with lots of cymbals.  Smokey Hormel adds some guitar to this song.

“Vortex” is slower and trippier with a kind of ice-skating rink vibe.  Eventually the song kind of takes off into an outer space sound.  “9×9” pushes past the six minute mark with a slow melody that’s accented by sprinklings of trippy sounds.  There’s some really dynamite drumming in this song.  By the end, it takes off, really rocking as it segues into “Scratchitti.”

On “Scratchitti,” Skerik plays some horns and Mike Dillion adds percussion (it’s impossible to know what he is playing that Russo isn’t).  This is the first weird song on the record.  It’s off kilter with noisy funk (Skerik is all over the place).  Although it does have a really catchy melody and a great bass sound from Marco.  There’s a middle section where things stretch out nicely turning kind of spacey–a trait for this album.

All three guests appear on “Three Question Marks.”  It’s a piano-based song and is jazzy in a kind of free jazz, everybody soloing kind of way.  Midway through the song Marco plays the strings of his piano, making a kind of harp sound before Russo (and Dillon?) get a drum solo.  With about a minute left, the song turns into a manic freakout with Skerik’s wailing sax and Hormel’s wailing guitar both fighting for dominance.

MIke Dillon appears on “Bronko’s Blues” which is slow and jazzy with a 1970s style keyboard solo.

The disc ends with “My Pet Goat” which is a slow jamming song that runs about 15 minutes.  Skerik, Dillon and Hormel all appear.  The first 8 minutes are slow chords over a fast syncopated drum pattern.  About half way through, there’s a pause and the second half of the song picks up with a new slow section based around some big bass notes.

I enjoyed this album a lot and thought it was really fun.  It’s a solid record of catchy, but not poppy insturmentals with a jazzy feel despite not being a jazz album.

There’s a bonus track–a 9 minute version of “The Three Question Marks.”  This is a big jamming monstrosity of a song. I don’t really recognize the original in it, but then I don’t think the original is all that recognizable.  This song has lots and lots of drums in it.

[READ: September 1, 2020] “The God of Dark Laughter”

This story is quite dark and it is written in a style that makes it feel much older than it actually is.

It listen as a report from a district attorney who is investigating a grisly crime.  The introduction to the report says

I make the following report in no confidence that it, or I will be believed, and beg the reader to consider this, at least in part, my letter of resignation.

Two boys found a dead body.  They were not innocent children–they had been killing squirrels and were covered in blood–but even they were disturbed by what they found.  The body was dressed like a clown and was surgically mutilated.

Only two weeks earlier the Entwhistle-Ealing Bros. circus had left town, so the D.A. called the circus owner to see if they knew of a missing performer.  The owner would check, but he wanted the D.A. to know that clowns have unsuspected depth–who knew what hey might get up to..

Sometime later they found the clown’s effects.  He had been living in a cave near by.  The cave smelled terrible.  Among his effects, they found clown makeup and clothes as well as some intellectual books including one in German by Friedrich von Junzt.

The D.A. went to the library to research this von Junzt fellow.  There was nothing in the card catalog for Von Junzt–not surprising for a small town–and no reference materials mentioned him. But there was a word in von Junzt’s book that stood out.  When he saw it again in another book, he had to put them together.

With the help of a dictionary the D.A. started clumsily translating the book which was written around 1895.  He learned that in Northern Armenia there were two competing cults.  The first supported Ye-Heh, the god of Dark Laughter.  They viewed the world as a cosmic hoax–the world was terrible but you had to laugh about it.  The descendants of this cult grew paler and some believe that the idea of white face for clowns comes from this cult.  The other cult worshiped Ai the God of Unbearable and Ubiquitous Sorrow.  They also believed the world was terrible bit that you should cry about it.  They set about killing all of the Ye-Heh believers.

As a man of the law, he had always followed the principles of Occam’s Razor, but this made him question everything.

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SOUNDTRACK: ANAT COHEN AND MARCELLO GONÇALVES-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #74 (September 2, 2020).

Anat Cohen plays the clarinet and Marcello Gonçalves plays the seven-string guitar.  Their

music comes from the heart of Brazil. The first two songs are choros, from the choro genre of music that originated in 19th century Rio de Janeiro. Think of choro music like New Orleans jazz, but in South America, both born of European and African influences. Cohen, on the other hand, is a clarinetist from Israel and the composer of these tunes. She developed a passion for Brazilian music while studying at Berklee College of Music and not long afterward found herself in a “roda” (choro jam session) in Rio de Janeiro with some of the most virtuosic players in Brazil’s choro scene. It was on that trip 20 years ago when Cohen met Gonçalves for the first time. All these years later, choro music has woven many of the threads in Cohen’s musical fabric.

Notice Gonçalves’s seven-string guitar, a common instrument in choro music; the additional string extends the lower register as if to combine an acoustic and bass guitar. Cohen explained in an email that playing with Gonçalves “makes me feel like I am playing with a full band.”

This duo was recently revered for their 2018 Grammy-nominated record, Outra Coisa, which celebrates the music of the iconic Brazilian woodwind player and composer Moacir Santos. Gonçalves is acclaimed for refining Santos’s orchestral arrangements down to just two musicians.

“Waiting for Amalia” opens with a bouncy guitar line and a sweet almost flirtatious clarinet.   This song feels quite jazzy.

“Valsa do Sul (Waltz of the South)” begins with a lovely, almost slinky clarinet melody. I love watching him play some of the fast riffs along with her, but it’s the bouncing, percussive moments that really make the song come alive.

This duo was recently revered for their 2018 Grammy-nominated record, Outra Coisa, which celebrates the music of the iconic Brazilian woodwind player and composer Moacir Santos.

Santos was the teacher of the guitarist and composer Baden Powell de Aquino.  I only recently heard of Baden Powell but here he is mentioned again–this time as an influencer before the existence of Instagram.  “In the Spirit of Baden” has some great low notes and a bouncy clarinet.  The middle has a strangely dissonant section where Gonçalves plays a few chords that are a little harsh.  Then Cohen joins in adding some wailing clarinet solos.  It’s a surprisingly dissonant moment in an otherwise very pretty song.

[READ: September 1, 2020] “U.F.O. in Kushiro”

I read this story almost ten years ago.  It was republished in a March 2011 issue of The New Yorker to memorialize the then recent earthquake in Japan.  This story was inspired by the incidents of the 1995 earthquake in Kobe, Japan.

The story (translated by Jay Rubin) opens a few days after the Kobe Earthquake.  And even five days after the Kobe earthquake, Komura’s wife is still engrossed in the TV footage from Kobe.  She never leaves the set.  He doesn’t see her eat or even go to the bathroom.  When he returns from work on the sixth day, she is gone.  She has left a note to the effect that she’s not coming back and that she wants a divorce.  Komura’s wind is knocked out of him. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: GOAT RODEO-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #73 (September 1, 2020).

Classical music is for serious people.  Yo-Yo Ma, probably the best known cellist in the world, must surely be a very serious fellow.  False!

Yo-Yo Ma is a hoot.  How do we know?  The first song of this set is called “Your Coffee Is a Disaster.”  And the name of the group is Goat Rodeo, after all.

Yo-Yo man formed this assemblage known as Goat Rodeo nearly ten years ago.  It consists of Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer and Chris Thile and many other folks.

You’ve probably heard Stuart Duncan playing fiddle on albums with Dolly Parton, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, and he was named the Academy of Country Music Fiddle Player of the Year numerous times. Edgar Meyer has played bass with Joshua Bell, Béla Fleck and Christian McBride, and the Nashville Symphony commissioned his first orchestral work in 2017. And you’d most likely recognize Chris Thile’s vocals and mandolin in the music of Nickel Creek and Punch Brothers.

I really enjoyed their wild (yes wild) Tiny Desk Concert back in 2011.

Fast forward a decade and this collaboration channels that same spectacular frenzy, separately captured in the gorgeous homes of the artists and mixed to perfection.

Thile introduces the song by saying the band is often in the midst of a a coffee war: Yo-Yo, Stuart and Edgar prefer beans that were roasted in a volcano for maybe millions of years, while Aoife and I prefer beans that taste as though the were fashioned by angels.  We like good coffee.”

Up next is one of many inappropriate (not scandalous or anything) titles.  When we are not arguing about coffee we are punning.  This: “Waltz Whitman.”  It is a slow piece that feels a lot like the kind of music Punch Brothers play–where it is a fiddle, not a violin.  Although the middle section which has some gorgeous slow cello from Yo-Yo Ma makes this song transcendent.

They’re accompanied by songwriter Aoife O’Donovan, who lends her pitch-perfect vocals to close out the set. Chris Thile … explains that “The Trappings” is about work/life balance, a timely sentiment.  How the things you are doing impact the ones with whom you do them.  How your partners aide and hinder your efforts (and the humorous variations he describes).

“The Trappings” is a faster song and it’s got vocals!  Thile sings lead and there is wonderful backing vocals from O’Donovan and Duncan.  There’s fantastic cello trills from Yo-Yo Ma throughout.

It’s good til the last drop.

[READ: September 1, 2020] “That Last Odd Day in L.A.”

This story was really interesting.

We meet a man who goes by his last name, Keller.  His girlfriend calls him that, his ex-wife called him that, even his teenaged daughter calls him that.

His wife left him after she had a bit of a nervous breakdown–the squirrels had dug up her bulbs and that was the last straw.

The woman Keller has been seeing, Sigrid, is a travel agent.  She has a son and an ex-husband who has gone deep into animal rescue.  Keller and Sigrid recently had a first date and it was a disaster.  Although they are planning another date after Thanksgiving. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE FLAMING LIPS-“Will You Return/When You Come Down” (2020).

As part of The Flaming Lips’ slow release of new songs from American Head, here comes this gentle song “Will You Return/Will You Come Down.”

Wayne sings his falsetto vocals over a gentle piano and bells melody.  He sings the title a few times before the verse begins.

The verses are very Flaming Lips–a friendly vocal melody about death.

About half way through, after the second chorus, the song takes off with soaring backing vocals and more instruments added.

A vocal line (Wayne’s voice sped up?) sings the “will you return” part a few times before a folky acoustic guitar comes in to take over the chorus.  The last minute or so goes full on Lips with strings, different vocal lines (screaming from beyond) and a wild guitar solo.

Although there’s not much to this song, there’s quite a lot going on.

[READ: August 21, 2020] “Woven, Sir”

After reading some bizarre and exciting stories, this one felt rather dull.

A man is in a hotel in Madrid waiting for a friend.  He looks around the hotel, makes observations about the other people there and then notices a man name Tyler.

There’s a number of interesting lines in the story which I liked.  Like when the narrator requests food from the waiter and Tyler, who is not facing him, says

I notice that, regrettably, you haven’t improved your pronunciation.  You are as lost in Spanish as you once were in English, he says…. You don’t listen to how other people talk.  You never say to yourself, He speaks well, so I’ll listen to him and learn how to speak.

Then we learn that the narrator knew Tyler (it’s his last name, first name unknown) many many years ago, when the narrator was six or seven.  Tyler was a tutor at a facility called the Green Hut.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PHIL PULEO-Phil Puleo’s poly”WOG” 1996​-​2003 (2003/2020).

Phil Puleo has been the drummer for Swans for a number of years.  He has also been in Cop Shoot Cop and a number of other bands.  He also lived in New Jersey and was a good friend of a good friend of mine.  So I’ve hung out with him a few times and was pretty excited for him to get the gig with Swans.  I was really looking forward to seeing them this past winter, but theirs was one of the first shows to get postponed until next year.

So Phil has reissued (and remastered) some of his solo projects.

This one is described as

Highly effected samples of me playing various instruments. Guitar, Piano, Bass, Percussion, Electronic percussion, hammered dulcimer, harmonica, found audio recordings, weird answering machine messages etc.  Many of these tracks were recorded around the Swans are Dead tour in 1997 in my home in NJ.

So you get fourteen tracks of warped instrumental songs.  They sound like a soundtrack to a world that is slightly out of phase with ours.

“Italianato” is basically the music for “La Vie en Rose” performed on a a pipe organ that’s underwater.  But its ten minutes are filled with all kinds of samples that break through the surface.  By about four minutes the main melody has been stripped away to pulses of keyboards and samples of a woman saying “Are you too young to remember that?  You are.”  Along with a slowed voice saying “I’m a depressing motherfucker.” And that same earlier voice repeating “You are.”

“Can Somebody” opens with a somber piano that’s accompanied by swirling waves of high notes.  An answering machine plays through as if from another world. I’m really enamored of the simple melody that starts after the message, like a mechanical bird singing a robotic song.

“I” is a minute and a half of a slow echoing piano melody while “Ahoy” soars with a violin-like instrument fluttering around.  Until a more sinister noise comes from under the depths, surfacing again and again.

“Mother’s Plot” is based around percussive sounds.  There’s also distant voices processed to sound almost like chanting.  “Vio” messes around with some loosely tuned guitars and a harmonica, a kind of under the sea Western.  Although half way through the song grows a bit brighter with clean guitars strumming a pretty melody.  “Message” has a deep pulsing sound and delicate sprinkling of chimes and piano as a man leaves a message about burning the whole place to the ground and needing an alibi.  Yikes!

“Slow By” has some plucked almost Spanish guitar enveloped by more of that pulsing sound.  Once the percussion comes in the melody establishes itself to create a really interesting soundtrack.  “Overgrown” has a melody based around what sounds like a dulcimer.  There’s some interesting guitar sounds that come and go and a noise that sounds like a cow (but isn’t).  The rubbery sound quality in this song is really terrific.

“Hill 503” is an exploration of what constitutes percussion.  A steady drumbeat is accompanied by other sounds (including a violin bow banging strings) that grow and recede. By the end, an echoing guitar line re-introduces a kind of Western feel to the piece.

“Tumble” has some wooden percussion underpinning the sounds of children playing in the distance  It sets for a potentially bucolic scene.  Especially when combined with “Wog Maia,” a pretty guitar song with gently echoed piano and processed children’s voices.

“Indian Guy” has some gentle dulcimer in what sounds like an urban landscape. The “solo” sounds like it was manipulated by some proto-Auto-tune.  “All New Baby” has some more lovely hammered dulcimer playing over the top of some sinister backing chords.  The second half cycles through rising seven note patterns that provide some excellent tension.

“Everything” is the reissue’s bonus track.  It does sound like he’s crammed everything that’s gone before into 90 seconds.  Waves and waves of noises that resolve in a tidy little guitar piece.

This is not easy listening, but it is very evocative and visual.  I’d watch whatever movie this was a soundtrack to.

[READ: August 20, 2020] “Digestions”

I was surprised to learn that I had not read anything by Jim Crace before–his name sounded so familiar.

This piece is several very short stories about food.

“Mussels on the House” is the best one.  In it, the chef of The Yellow Basket likes to take revenge on unsatisfied customers by giving them less than good mussels.  The locals enjoy hearing the stories of the politician or the couple planing a divorce or the state executive whose evening did not end how they planned.

“George’s Magic Cookies” may have been given to a man on death row.  It certainly would have made the moments after his last meal happy ones.  George thinks that he might still be flying. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BORIS-Archive Volume Zero “Early Demos” (2014/2020). 

In early August, Boris digitally released six archival releases.  Volume Zero is called “Early Demos” and it includes songs from when Boris was a four piece.

9 songs selected and compiled from 3 independently produced demo tapes, from the early period of Boris’s formation.  Track 1,2 from 1st Demo 1993 ; Track 3,4 from 2nd Demo 1993 ; Track 5-9 from 3rd Demo 1994.

(Originally released on March 5, 2014. Included in Archive 2, limited to 1,000 copies)

Boris had more of a hardcore sound at the time and these early demos are pretty wild.  Vocally, Atsuo was in prime screaming mode.  Because I don’t speak Japanese, I don’t know if he is just screaming of screaming words.  Either way, the result is intense.

Original drummer Nagata (who left soon after) plays on almost all of these songs.

“Loudd” opens the set with crashing guitars–a dramatic lengthy heavy metal opening.  Then comes the fast rumbling bass and grunted vocals.  Regardless of the other words, the chorus is a chanted “LOUDD!”  Atsuo plays drums on this one.

“AYA” has loud distorted bass with a simple guitar melody.  It’s a fairly traditional-sounding 90s grunge song.  Atsuo sings in kind of a creaky style rather than he usual screams.  “Spell Down” is nearly 5 minutes–quite long for these demos.  It’s got a  fast grungey riff with a hardcore underbelly.  This song has a middle section of jump drums ans slow droning chords.  This song also features an early Wata guitar solo.

“Nods” feels like a twisted call and response of groans and then vocals all set to a slow heavy riff.  They play a little with recording effects as midway through the song the band stops.  Then a disjointed guitar riff picks up in the left speaker before the whole band jumps in playing that same melody.

“Scar Box” opens with a riff that sounds like very early doom metal under the hardcore guitars and drums take over.  Atsuo is playing on this one and there are lots of cymbals (no gong yet, though).

“Mosquito” and “Matozoa” are both under two minutes long.  “Mosquito” plays with slow heavy chunky chords and “Matozoa” is more of a moshing song that’s mostly drums and vocals with an occasional crashing guitar chord.

“Deep Sucker” has a robust rumble with growled vocals and grungy guitars.  Then around two and a half minutes a feedback wail starts.  It continues for the next two and a half minutes.  The feedback changes tone and seems to almost fade out. It’s as if Wata (presumably) is trying to keep that feedback alive and interesting–making the note swirls around.  The feedback is accompanied by a low rumble and drums, but those fade out and the last 90 seconds are just feedbacking.  The feedback” segues into “Water Porch.”  A rumble enters this song and then the song turns into pure drone as occasional chords are played just to ring out allow nature to take over.  With a minute and a half left the fast drumming kicks in and the song turns into a blistering song with a decidedly hardcore riff and growled vocals.

The final 10th track, “Soul Search You Sleep”, was recorded in 1996 during Boris’s first tour of the US west coast [at Capitol Theater, Olympia, WA. Mar 1st & 2nd 1996], and has been brought out of a long slumber to complete Volume Zero.

“Soul Search You Sleep” is two chords, feedback and a lot of screaming.  This alternates with some fast sections of two chords, pummeling drums, and screaming.  Around four minutes Wata adds a  solo.  The last minute is thumping bass and drums and punctuated by Atsuo’s screams.  A Boris show has gotten more sophisticated in the last thirty years, but all of the elements were in place way back then.

Takeshi: Bass & Vocal ; Wata: Guitar & Echo ;  Atsuo: Drums & Vocal ; Nagata: Drums(Track 2,3,4,6,7,8,9)

[READ: August 25, 2020] “The Guardians”

This is a fascinating little short story.  It almost feels like a sketch for a character rather than a complete story.

As the story opens, Lee is a little boy.  He lives with “Grampop, Granny, Father and Lee’s mother who was too important to have a name.”

Each person gets a lengthy introduction–the calm, intensity of his grandparents, the kindness of his father (who should have had a better job) and the ups and downs of his mother. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BORIS-Archive Volume Five “Pink Days” (2014/2020). 

a0153819288_16In early August, Boris digitally released six archival releases.  Volume Five is called “Pink Days” and it is the best sounding of the bunch.

This show was recorded live in New York on May 31 during Boris’s 2006 US tour.  PINK had just been released and the band played 7 selections from the album.  But they also played two classics from Akuma No Uta and, one from Dronevil and a track from The Thing Which Solomon Overlooked (or Mabuta No Ura depending on which version of the song they play).

This show

 transmits wild enthusiasm; the songs in this full set recording could even be called their greatest hits.
(Originally released on March 5, 2014. Included in Archive 2, limited to 1,000 copies)

The set opens with four songs from Pink.  The first is “Blackout” which serves as a noisy introduction for what’s to come–feedback, squeals, waves of noise and Atsuo’s gong.  As the songs settles in around 7 minutes, Wata takes some soaring solos while Atsuo pounds away on the drums and Takeshi plays some super heavy bass lines.   Atsuo adds some vocals and a big YEAH! before the band starts “PINK,” with its fast, heavy riff and more soaring guitars.  Atsuo sings the melody as the song speeds along.  “Woman on the Screen” continues the fast heaviness with two and a half minutes of pummeling guitars and drums.  “Nothing Special” is two more minutes of blistering noise with lots and lots of YEAHs!

A quick jump to the Akuma No Uta album for the riff-tastic “Ibitsu” before returning to Pink for the two minute “Electric.”

Boris has two songs called “A Bao A Qu.”  Apparently they are entirely different.  I gather that this one is from the Mabuta No Ura album and not The Thing Which Solomon Overlooked (that version is over 8 minutes long and this one is about 4).  It’s heavy and dense with a lot of slow vocals and screaming solos.

Things finally slow down for the 15 minute “the evilone which sobs” from the Dronevil album.  This is a solid drone song–waves of low end feedback pulsing throughout the concert hall.  After four minutes of ringing, Wata plays a slow four note melody.  About half way through the song, a new melody enters–both Takeshi and Wata play different parts while Atsuo smashes the cymbals.   By nine minutes the two parts have more or less melded and the four note melody returns with the powerful backing of Takeshi.  The last five minutes show Wata whaling away on her guitar creating soaring textures and sounds.

The feedbacking end segues into the title track from Akuma no Uta.  This five minute instrumental features a lot of gong and a lot of cymbals as the slow riff unfolds. Until about half way through when the song takes off with a wicked riff and lot of whiooping from Atsuo.

For the last two songs the band returns to Pink.  Up first is the the ten minute “Just Abandoned My-Self” which is a simple, fast singalong (if only you could figure out the words).  The last five or so minutes lead the song into a droning outro–feeback and noise–that abruptly shuts off to wild applause and Atsuo telling everyone that there’s one more song.

The last song is the opening track from Pink called “Farewell.” It starts slowly with a pretty guitar riff.  It’s a really catchy song with a great melody.  Atsuo’s soaring vocals at the end are a nice capstone to a great show.

[READ: August 15, 2020] “Nobody Gets Out Alive”

I didn’t really like the way this story unfolded.  It started out intriguingly enough: “Getting past the mastodon took planning.”

The mastodon skull was in the middle of the room where a coffee table might normally be.  The setting is a house in Alaska, being used for a wedding party.

The newly married couple are Carter and Katrina.  They are in Alaska visiting Katrina’s father.  His neighbor Neil decided to host this wedding party for them.  Its apparent that he and Katrina used to date (or maybe wanted to) a long time ago.

They went to Alaska because Carter had never been there.  Nor had he met her father (in fact they’d only met each other a year ago). But Katrina’s father is very dull–he eats the same meal every night, he watches the same shows every night and he doesn’t even want to go to the wedding party. (more…)

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