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Archive for the ‘Sports’ Category

SOUNDTRACKBITCH FALCON-Staring at Clocks (2020).

Everyone can agree that Bitch Falcon is a terrible name.  Just awful.

Having said that, this album is pretty great.  Drummer Nigel Kenny was interviewed in the Irish Drummers book, and that book continues to introduce me to bands that I like.

Bitch Falcon is a trio who have been together for five years.  They released their debut album Staring at Clocks in 2020.

Their sound touches on grunge and shoegaze, which I rather like, but they move beyond that and  explore really interesting sounds from Lizzie Fitzpatrick’s voice and guitar.  Her guitar shimmers and wobbles and she is excellent at sculpting feedback into sounds that veer into harshness.  Her voice is strong and powerful, hitting and holding notes that ring out.  But also singing in otherworldly styles like almost wordless sound effects.

The album is held together by bassist Barry O’Sullivan’s prominent position–playing the main lines and basic rhythms of most songs and by Nigel Kenny’s not traditional almost lead drumming.

The album opens with a squealing feedback followed by a rumbling bass and some solid thumping.  And it continues in this vein for some 40 minutes.  There’s diversity in the songs–some are softer and some are dreamy–but the overall sound is consistent.  Throughout the album, there are gorgeous  washes of guitars and wicked feedback.

I love the thumping bass and drum and the ringing guitar and voice in “How Did I Know?”  “Staring at Clocks” opens with guitar sounds that are so unguitarlike, it’s wild.  The fast drums and bass propel the otherwise ethereal song along.  The guitar sounds at the end of the song are like out of a sci-fi movie.

The opening bass sound of “Damp Breath” is great and when they throw in the cool guitar rolls over the top it sounds tremendous. I love the lead bass line of “Martyr” while the guitar lays down intricate passages.  And the final song, “Harvester” is 6 minutes long with the final two allowing the guitars to roar until the album crashes to a conclusion.

This album was a great surprise.  I would love to see them live.

[READ: February 1, 2021] Dragon Hoops

Gene Luen Yang’s books are always fantastic.  He has such an excellent way with storytelling, that no matter what his books are about you know they’re going to pull you in.  Even if they’re about basketball!  Even high school basketball.

Mr Yang opens the book explaining that he never like sports–he was never interested. He got his excitement from comic books, He teaches at Bishop O’Dowd High School (in California) and has been there for seventeen years (Do his kids know that he’s an amazing cartoonist?  I assume so).  In all that time he never thought much about the school’s basketball team, but in this year 2014-2015, there was talk that their team would go all the way.  It was a big story, and Yang loves stories.

In order to see if this would work as a book, it meant talking to Coach Lou Richie.  They have obviously talked over the years, but not very much.  So Yang takes the first step (a wonderful recurring theme in the book) and approaches Lou.  They talk and Yang has an idea for his next book.

We go back through Coach Lou’s life.  He was a young nerd just like Gene.  He was short and skinny.  But when he went to a Bishop O’Dowd game at the Oakland Coliseum, Lou knew he wanted to do that one day.  So he worked out and grew some and by his junior year he was only 5’8″ (like me) but he was  a formidable player.  Lou’s team made it to the Coliseum that year (some kind of State playoffs) and, cliche of all cliches, he scored the game-winning basket.  But, cliche of all other cliches it was called a no basket because of a penalty. It was one of the most controversial calls in a high school game and obviously Lou never forgot it.  (Despite the cliches that’s all true).

Lou became head coach at O’Dowd, and since he came back his teams have been to state five times, but have never won.

But this year he has two secret weapons: Ivan Rabb and Paris Austin.

Imagine being a high school kid, being great at basketball and then having Mr Yang draw you in his book?  Wow. (more…)

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 SOUNDTRACK: THE REDNECK MANIFESTO-The How (2018).

Despite a terrible name that would keep me away from wanting to see them, The Redneck Manifesto are a very interesting and complicated band.  I discovered them through the book of Irish drummers.  TRM drummer Mervyn Craig is in the book.

The How is the band’s fifth album (and first in eight years).  The album is chock full of instrumentals that touch all genres of music.

There are jazzy elements, dancey elements and rock elements.  There are solos (but never long solos) and jamming sections.  Most of the songs are around 4 minutes long with a couple running a little longer.

“Djin Chin” has jangly chords and quiet riffs that switch to a muted melody.  All the while the bass is loping around.  It shifts tempos three times in the first two minutes.  Around three minutes the bass takes over the lead instrument pushing the song along with deep notes.

“The Rainbow Men” has a circular kind of riff with swirling effects that launch the song during the musical pauses.  After a minute and a half it drastically shifts direction and the adds in a cool solo.

“Sip Don’t Gulp” starts with a catchy bouncy guitar riff and bass lines.  At two minutes it too shifts gears to a staggered riff that sounds great.

“Kobo” is the shortest song and seems to tell a melodic story.  The two guitars play short, fast rhythms as call and response while the bass rumbles along.

“Head Full of Gold” is over 6 minutes with a thumping bass, rumbling drums and soft synths.  “No One” is nearly 7 minutes and feels conventionally catchy until you try to keep up with the beats.  After a middle series of washes from various instruments, the back half is a synthy almost dancey rhythm.

“Sweep” is a pretty song until the half-way mark when it just takes off in a fury of fast drumming and complex chords.  The end builds in upward riding notes until it hits a calming ending

“We Pigment” is a poppy staccato dancey number.  The second half turns martial with a series of four beat drum patterns and a soaring guitar solo.  More staccato runs through to the end.  “The Underneath Sun” also has a lot of staccato–fast guitar notes interspersed with bigger chords.  The end of the song is just littered with sweeping guitar slides until the thumping conclusion.

This album is great and I’m looking forward to exploring their other releases.

[READ: January 10, 2021] A History of Ireland in 100 Words

This book looks at old Irish words–how they’ve evolved and how they show the way Irish history came about.  The authors say:

our store of words says something fundamental about us and how we think.  This book is meant to provide insights into moments of life that may be otherwise absent from history books.  The focus is on Gaelic Ireland throughout as Gaelic was the native language of the majority of the inhabitants of the island for the last 2000 years. It yielded its primacy to English only in the last 150 years.

We selected words with the aim of illustrating each of our themes as broadly as possible.  We wanted the words in all their richness to tell their story … like how the word that originally meant noble came to mean cheaper (saor).

Almost all of the entries reference The cattle raid of Cooley (The Ulster Cycle) which features the hero Cú Chulainn.  This story is at the heart of most of historical Ireland and it’s pretty fascinating how many of these Gaelic words either originate with that story or get their foundation from the story.

There’s a general pronunciation guide although I wish each word had a phonetic guide because anyone who speaks English will look at Irish a if it is just a jumble of nonsensical consonants.

The book is broken down into sections, although the authors insist that there is no correct way to read the book.

  • Writing and Literature
  • Technology and Science
  • Food and Feasting
  • The Body
  • Social Circles
  • Other Worlds
  • War and Politics
  • A Sense of Place
  • Coming and Going
  • Health and Happiness
  • Trade and Status
  • Entertainment and Sport
  • The Last Word

There are also delightfully weird wood carving-like drawings from by Joe McLaren scattered throughout the book.

The words are listed below with either a definition or an interesting anecdote included. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BORIS with MERZBOW-Gensho (Disc One: Boris) (2016).

In 2016, Boris teamed with Merzbow to create Gensho, a 2 CD package that was designed to have both CDs played at the same time.  Not the easiest thing for many people, but with the advent of digital recordings it’s now pretty easy to play both discs at the same time (this release is on Spotify).

Disc 1 was all Boris.  Disc 2 was all Merzbow.

Boris’ album is unusual in that it is re-recordings of some of the bands music as well as a couple of new tracks and a cover.  The unusual part is that there are no drums.  There are percussive elements, especially on one track, but there’s no regular drum beat to any of these tracks.

“Farewell” (from Pink) is a simple two note guitar melody with washes of sound behind it.  New notes expand that repeating motif. After two minutes a roaring chord comes in and holds while the vocals sing an uplifting melody.  The chord progression is very very slow with chords that drone. When the melody shifts to a higher note it feels like the whole song is elevated.  There’s a pretty little guitar solo in the middle and even a gong hit.  It’s one of Boris’ prettier songs and it fades softly into the noise that is “Huge.”

“Huge” (from Amplifier Worship) is two feedbacking guitars introducing distorted chords and lots of gong hits.  They’re followed by a ponderous drone-fueled six chord progression.  At around five minutes the vocals–a growl really–starts up.  At 8 minutes a new pattern emerges.  Two chugging chords and then a roaring low note–practically trademark Boris.

“Resonance” was a new song for Boris.  It is only echoed percussion–randomly and slowly hit.  The title makes sense as these sounds echo and resonate for a long time after they are sounded.  It’s not particularly interesting by itself but it works well with the Merzbow track tacked on.

“Rainbow” comes from the album Rainbow, a collaboration with Michio Kurihara.  I don’t know this record, but if this is any indication of that release, it sounds like a string record.  This is a quiet, pretty song–a sliding bass and a quietly echoing guitar riff as the song whispers along.  Then Wata starts singing quietly as the bass slinks around.  After three minutes a fuzzy guitar solo comes in drawing all attention to itself.  It rips through and ends in a wall of noise before the vocals start again.  This sounds very much like a Sonic Youth song.

Pulsing electronic noses open up “Sometimes” (a My Bloody Valentine cover).  After a minute, feedback and chords come in.  The vocals are nicely buried an you can clearly hear this is Boris’ take on MBV.  It’s a slow drone wall rather than a wall of different sounds.

It segues into “Heavy Rain” (from Noise) which opens as just a series of electronic rumbles and feedback jamming until a pretty echoing chord comes in and Wata sings very quietly.   After a minute and a half big droning chords ring out.  Then its back to the quiet–whispered vocals and gentle echoing notes over a slow meandering bass.   It soars quietly like this until the last 44 seconds which returns to the noise of the opening.

“Akuma No Uta” (from Akuma No Uta) is full of washes of notes, drones and gongs.  Over the course of the 11 and a half minutes of this song, it morphs into loud distorted chords drones ending with a slow heavy two note riff that fades with gongs.

“Akirame Flower” (originally from Golden Dance Classics a split EP with 9dw that I don’t know) opens with watery noises and electronic beat before raw guitar and vocals come in.  This is a softer drone with a pretty guitar solo on top of the fuzz.  The last note rings out and segues into the distorted bent chords of “Vomitself.”

“Vomitself” is the heaviest thing here–heavily distorted chords pummel along while growled vocals creak though.  It’s remarkable how heavy it is with no drums.

[READ: February 5, 2021] “Jamaica”

In this story, a man who is not allowed to go to his wife’s book club, finds a way to be a part of it

Everett is the narrator and he tells us about his family.  His daughter Theresa is dating a man much older than her (of whom Everett disapproves highly); Thomas his son who was born blind.  TJ their dachshund is as much a part of the story as anyone else.  His wife, Jillian, hosts the The Gorgon Book Club.

The attendees are Theresa, Dorry Smith a semi-professional archer–right down to carrying a bow and arrow with her wherever she goes, Luce Winningham who has “a Peter Pan haircut and a perky disdain for wearing a brassiere.”  There’s also Gwen Kirkle who loves animals more than anything (and often brings conversations to a halt when she talks about them).  The final attendee is Abigail Van Roost.

Everett and Abigail dated in high school. Then she had a terrible accident.  Everett (out of cowardice) broke up with her and started dating Jillian.  Amazingly, Abby (who is in a wheelchair) is fine with the arrangement,  She is happily married herself now and treats young Thomas like a prince. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKCRO-MAGS-The Age of Quarrel (1986).

In a post from a couple of days ago, Rebecca Kushner mentions a bunch of punk bands that she either knew or hung out with.  I was amazed at how many of them I’d heard of but didn’t really know.  So this seemed like a good opportunity to go punk surfing.

Cro-Mags are another of those classic punk bands that I never really listened to.  I mean, sure I’ve heard of them.  And that album cover is well known to me.  I just never gave them a listen.

This is their debut album.  They are still together but have only released 6 records.  And their later stuff is much more heavy metal oriented.  But this first one is classic punk.

There a whole bunch of really short songs–eight under two minutes.  But there  were hints at the metal direction because there are also some longer songs too.  Opener “We Gotta Know” is over three minutes and even has a wild guitar solo from Parris Mitchell Mayhew.  “Seekers of the Truth” runs to over four minutes and is comparatively rather slow paced.

But the punk elements are there too.  Chanted call and response and a song like “World Peace” has a good moshing break down.

Overall, it sounds a bit like a few of the metal albums form the 80s that I really liked.  There’s no reason I shouldn’t have listened to this back then.  They’ve even got pointed lyrics that as a teen I would have really gotten into

Interestingly, their follow up album, Best Wishes, had a big lineup change.  Their bassist (and the only guy who has been with the band for all of these years) Harley Flanagan took over on vocals.  His singing style was very different.  The short songs are gone and the metal feel really dominates.

In Kushner’s essay she talks about Harley the hare krishna and you can see that spirituality in his lyrics

Days of Confusion which is only 2 minutes long has this lyric

In these days of confusion much illusions try to get you
Try to trick you Every single day
Much aggravation and frustration
Devastation always heading my way
And I know why I’m suffering
Looking for satisfaction my mind keeps leading me astray
And I know and I see spiritually there’s gotta be a better way
It’s nice when bands do the right thing.

[READ: February 2, 2021] “Passeur” 

A man is in Krakow, the only major Polish city to have survived World War II without its buildings being severely demolished.

He is staying in “a pension” (which I’m picturing as a hostel) and asks where the nearest ATM is.  I enjoyed this line:

It’s not far, she said, sighing regretfully, as if she wished she were sending me to the other side of the world.

He says he has never been in this square before, but he knows it by heart.   Or at least he knows the merchants–grandmothers selling vegetables and home-made goods.

Then he looks in a barbershop and he sees a man who looks comfortable there, Ken.

Ken was born in New Zealand and died there. (more…)

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 SOUNDTRACKSTEREOLAB-“High Expectation” (1991).

In Stuart David’s book, In The All-Night Café, he lists the songs on a mixtape that Stuart Murdoch gave to him when they first met.

Although I’ve been a fan of Belle & Sebastian for a long time, I knew almost none of the songs on this mixtape.  So, much like Stuart David, I’m listening to them for the first time trying to see how they inspire Stuart Murdoch.

In the book, David writes how much he does not like “rock,” especially music based around bluesy rock.  Most of these songs, accordingly, do not do that.  In fact, most of these songs are (unsurprisingly) soft and delicate.

Stereolab have been around forever (I saw them live two years ago) and their music has gone through several transformations over the years.

This song comes from their second release, an EP called Super-Electric, and was then released on the Switched On collection.  It’s a pretty quiet song, with a kind of soporific feel–muted guitars, no drums, and a kind of gauzy sheen over all the music.

One of the best things about Stereolab is that their lyrics are usually absolutely different from what you think they might be about given the music and Lætitia Sadier’s delivery.  She sings softly and, because French is her native language, her emphases are not always where one might expect, so she can sing a line like: “There is no sense in being interested/In a child, a group, or in a society” (in the song Spark Plug”) and it sounds like a pretty pop song with lovely backing vocals.

In “High Expectation,” she sings gently over this chill-out song:

Do you really want to love someone who does not love you
Do you really want to stab your enemy in the back.  Stab him in front.

and then the understated but still catchy chorus:

I don’t, I don’t, I don’t, I’m sorry.

Stereolab were unique right from the get go.

[READ: June 1, 2020] Check Please Book 2

Check Please is a two-part graphic novel.  Book 1 followed college freshman Eric “Bitty” Bittle through his freshman and sophomore years.  In book two Bitty is now a junior (and senior) Samwell College and is taking on more responsibilities.

The book is written as a vlog from Bitty.  As the opening blurb tells us

I’m a junior on the Samwell men’s hockey team and not only do I have new teammates and responsibilities I’ve got a new beau–remember Jack?  Dating a professional hockey player wasn’t anything I expected to do in college.  My parents don’t know, my teammates have no clue, and Jack and I aren’t sure that we want to keep it a secret.

Jack Zimmerman is now playing pro hockey for the Falcons.  He has a hockey nickname–Zimmboni–and the respect of his team.  Despite the high profile games dn Bitty’s schooling, they do manage to see each other (Zoom meetings before they were what everyone was doing). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: COCTEAU TWINS-“Oomingmak” (1986).

In Stuart David’s book, In The All-Night Café, he lists the songs on a mixtape that Stuart Murdoch gave to him when they first met.

Although I’ve been a fan of Belle & Sebastian for a long time, I knew almost none of the songs on this mixtape.  So, much like Stuart David, I’m listening to them for the first time trying to see how they inspire Stuart Murdoch.

In the book, David writes how much he does not like “rock,” especially music based around bluesy rock.  Most of these songs, accordingly, do not do that.  In fact, most of these songs are (unsurprisingly) soft and delicate.

Of all the bands on the list, Cocteau Twins were the one I know (and like) best.  I’ve been a fan since 1987, so just after this album came out.  I never remember which songs are which by them, because they have titles like “Oomingmak.”

Cocteau Twins are a magical band and at the time (and perhaps even now) no one sounded like them.  Their music is so ethereal, it practically floats away both because of the shimmering echoing guitars of Robin Guthrie and Elizabeth Frasier’s high pitched vocals–often with non-intelligible words. [I honestly never knew she was actually singing words, but I see she was].

This song is the shortest song on Victorialand.  It has a fast repeating guitar line and Fraser singing softly.  Toward the end, she sings harmonies with herself in her slightly more harsh sounding vocal style.  It’s a lovely song, as all of their are.

[READ: January 20, 2021] “Touched”

Reading this right after reading the Arthur Miller story was really strange.  Because here was another thirteen year-old boy possibly having sex with an adult woman.

The story opens on Ali, the thirteen year-old.  His Bombay family has visited him in England and are now returning to India.  Ali was very sad to see them go,

Ali was most upset because his cousin Zahida was leaving. She was a year older than him.  She had pressed her lips to his and then they ran up into the attic together and then

he continued caressinuntil, making his way through intricate whirls of material, he reached her flesh and slid his hand into the top of the crack.

He was suddenly concerned about being discovered they quickly separated.

Wow. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKADITYA PRAKASH ENSEMBLE-GlobalFEST Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #135 (January 13, 2021).

Aditya Prakash EnsembleGlobalFEST is an annual event, held in New York City, in which bands from all over the world have an opportunity to showcase their music to an American audience.  I’ve never been, and it sounds a little exhausting, but it also sounds really fun.

The Tiny Desk is teaming up with globalFEST this year for a thrilling virtual music festival: Tiny Desk Meets globalFEST. The online fest includes four nights of concerts featuring 16 bands from all over the world. 

Given the pandemic’s challenges and the hardening of international borders, NPR Music and globalFEST is moving from the nightclub to your screen of choice and sharing this festival with the world. Each night, we’ll present four artists in intimate settings (often behind desks donning globes), and it’s all hosted by African superstar Angélique Kidjo, who performed at the inaugural edition of globalFEST in 2004.

The second band on the third night is the Aditya Prakash Ensemble.

Performing from their home base in Los Angeles, Aditya Prakash Ensemble highlights songs borne from South India’s Carnatic tradition. Prakash uses his voice as an instrument to tell powerful, emotive stories — which he reimagines in a fresh, dynamic way. Aditya Prakash Ensemble’s modern take on traditional music mixes in jazz and hip-hop and features a diverse L.A. ensemble.

The Ensemble is a quintet.  With Julian Le on piano, Owen Clapp on Bass, Brijesh Pandya on drums and Jonah Levine on trombone and guitar.

As “Greenwood” starts, I can’t quite tell if he’s actually singing words (in Hindi or some other language) or if he is just making sounds and melodies.  It sounds great either way.  He sings a melody and then the upright bass joins in along with the trombone.  He displays a more traditional singing and then Le plays a jumping piano solo which is followed by a trombone solo.  The ending is great as he sings along to the fast melody.

“Vasheebava” is a song about seduction.  Levine plays the guitar on this song.  It starts with gentle effects on the cymbals (he rubs his fingers on them).  Prakash sings in a more traditional Indian style and Levine adds a really nice guitar solo.

“Payoji” is a traditional devotional song and Prakash sings in a very traditional style.  But musically it’s almost a kind of pop jazz.  It’s very catchy with a nice trombone solo.

This conflation of Indian music with jazz is really cool.

[READ: January 11, 2021] Fearless.

“If one man can destroy everything, why can’t one girl change it?”-Malala Yousafzai

This book begins with this wonderful sentiment:

Not long ago, a wave of exciting books uncovered stories of women through history, known and unknown, for young dreamers around the world.  Women who had been warriors, artists and scientists.  Women like Ada Lovelace, Joan of Arc and Frida Kahlo, whose stories changed the narrative for girls everywhere. Readers around us were thrilled to discover this treasure trove. But there was something missing. They rarely saw women of color and even fewer South Asian women in the works they were reading.

It’s a great impetus for this book which opens with a timeline of Pakistani accomplishments (and setbacks) for women.  The timeline is chronological in order of the birth years of the woman in the book.  Interspersed with their births are important events and the year they happened.

Like in 1940 when women mobilized and were arrested or in 1943 when the Women’s National Guard was formed. In 1948, a law passed recognizing women’s right to inherit property.  In 1950, the Democratic Women’s Association formed to demand equal pay for equal work (it doesn’t say if it was successful).

In 1973 the Constitution declared there could be no discetrmaton on the basis of race, religion, caste or sex.

But in a setback in 1979, the Hudood Ordinance passed which conflated adultery with rape, making it near impossible to prove the latter–and the punishment was often death.

And yet for all of the explicit sexism in Pakistan, the country accomplished something that America has been unable to do–elect a woman as leader. In 1988 Benazir Bhutto became the first female Prime Minister of Pakistan.

The woman in this book are given a one-page biography and a cool drawing (illustrations by Aziza Ahmad).  They range from the 16th century to today.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKSOFIA REI-GlobalFEST Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #133/140 (January 11, 2021).

Sofia ReiGlobalFEST is an annual event, held in New York City, in which bands from all over the world have an opportunity to showcase their music to an American audience.  I’ve never been, and it sounds a little exhausting, but it also sounds really fun.

The Tiny Desk is teaming up with globalFEST this year for a thrilling virtual music festival: Tiny Desk Meets globalFEST. The online fest includes four nights of concerts featuring 16 bands from all over the world. 

Given the pandemic’s challenges and the hardening of international borders, NPR Music and globalFEST is moving from the nightclub to your screen of choice and sharing this festival with the world. Each night, we’ll present four artists in intimate settings (often behind desks donning globes), and it’s all hosted by African superstar Angélique Kidjo, who performed at the inaugural edition of globalFEST in 2004.

The third band on the first night is Sofia Rei.  Rei is

an award-winning Argentine vocalist and songwriter [who] blends South American folk traditions with experimental pop and electronic music. That mix of tradition and modernity extends to her surroundings, which features traditional iconography, exuberant plants and looping pedals.

Rei plays three songs.  “Un Mismo Cielo” (The Same Sky) opens with her looping her voice.  Big electronic drums are added and then JC Maillard is messing around with their electronics to create interesting sounds and textures.   After a quiet introduction, Jorge Glem adds lovely cuatro and Leo Genovese plays a trippy electronic flute-sounding keyboard solo.  I enjoy watching Maillard playing the electronic melodies on the keys and then the quick switch to bass guitar for a funky riff.

“Negro Sobre Blanco” (Black On White) is about putting things into perspective.  Rei picks up the charango as the drums echo in.  The charango plays a delightful echoing melody.  Ana Carmela Rodriguez Contramaestre sings backing vocals and platys percussion.  The middle jam with some wild electronics then Maillard picks up guitar a plays kind of spaghetti western melody.  Then the song returns to the original melody with an even fuller sound.

Saving the best for last, Jorge Glem takes an amazing solo on the cuatro.  His hands move so fast and he simultaneously plays high chords along with percussive strumming.  At the end of the solo he does so fascinating strumming with his fingernails to make a trippy psychedelic sound.  It’s phenomenal.

The set ends with “Escarabajo Digital” (Digital Beetle), a fun dancing song.  The juxtaposition of the fast cuatro with the grooving bassline is fantastic.

I enjoyed this set a lot and want to hear more from her (and Glem who has several of his own albums out).

[READ: January 11, 2021] Okay, Okay, Okay

This story is set around Adamastor University in South Africa.  The focus is on Simon, a former teacher (now an administrator) and his family.  Also his assistant Viwe (and his family).  There’s also Vida, a sound technician for live theater.  She is unrelated to them but she gets pulled into their drama.

The story initially seems to be about how Simon (the “Head of Effective Communication”) is desperately hoping to get promoted into a more plum position. He is currently in a very good position financially, although his former colleagues feel like he threw his soul away when he became an admin.  But the story grows bigger–tackling University policies as well as racism and sexism in South Africa.

But the book opens on Vida. Vida is a sound engineer.  She is familiar with University politics because she has been to a few of Professor Bruno Viljoen’s academic parties.  Viljoen is head of the drama department and invited Vida along because she has done sound work for them.

The one thing I didn’t care for in this book was some of the younger characters occasional throwing in text speak (WTF, LOL).  While those are certainly things people of that age might say (although Vida is in her 40s), it was jarring to see text speak in a character’s thought process:

A dinner party full of academics: WTF, she’d had more fun driving her car around with nowhere to go.

Why not write it out?  It just seemed odd.

Aside from that, Vida is a wonderful character–no nonsense, takes no crap from anyone.  She loves sound and is great at her job.  She also has two dogs and two cats and she is crazy about them.  There’s at least five times when she speaks her mind and it’s terrific.

Cecily is Simon’s daughter.  She is currently taking a class with Boris. He is, everyone agrees, a silver fox.  Even younger girls swoon for him.  But Cecily has known him since she was little and she’s not impressed.

As this class opens, Boris is encouraging them to dig into their past to present a monologue.

Half the people in this class probably have slave ancestry.  That blood flows in your veins.  You are slaves.

Immediately a student raises her hand:

I just want to say that it gives me offense when you, a settler, say that I, whose ancestors are buried here, am a slave.  “Slave” implies that a person is not a person–not a mother, a lover, a human being.

After class Bruno asks Cecily what that was all about.  She says that students are very sensitive these days so just mind what he says.  He then offers to set her up with his nephew–a rather handsome fellow who looks like “a Puerto Rican Ken doll.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ACTIVE CHILD-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #131 (January 6, 2021).

Active Child has been around a long time, although I was completely unfamiliar with him.

Active Child is the music of Patrick Grossi. … He layers his choral-styled voice on top of melodic harp and piano. Electronic beats propel selections from his latest album, In Another Life, as well as one of his earliest and well-known songs, “Hanging On.”

He opens with “Hanging On.”  A drumbeat begins along with his high soaring voice.  As the camera fades in, he is playing the harp.  As he samples and loops himself, he switches to piano to play the main verse.  Then the loop starts and the room fills with music.  It’s pretty neat to watch him jump from piano to harp and again for a solo.

From a stunning room overlooking the San Gabriel Mountains in Pasadena, Calif., we hear the ethereal sounds of Active Child. “I chose this space, as this is where I’ve written nearly every piece of music for my active child project. my music and this house / this view are completely intertwined.”

As he’s talking, the drm for “In Another Life” begins.  I couldn’t see how he triggered it at all.  Over a drum beat and harp, he sings an ethereal melody.  When he switches to the piano his voice loops in a nice harmony.

There’s a very slow fade from one scene to the other as he begins “Cruel World.”  He starts looping and harmonizing with himself.  This is the catchiest of the three mostly from all of the looping.

[READ: January 6, 2021] Days of Our Lockdown Lives

In addition to the Zapiro book of editorial cartoons, we also got a comic strip collection from Stephen Francis and Rico (Schacherl).  This was a book in the Madam & Eve comic strip series.  There are thirty plus collections and this is the most recent.

Madam & Eve is a daily comic strip syndicated in many South African newspapers.  It started in 1992 and went daily in 1993. The premise is based around a middle-class white woman, Gwen Anderson (“Madam”), and her black maid, Eve Sisulu and how they manage in the new South Africa as the Apartheid era drew to a close.

Theirs is a relationship of affectionate squabbling.  Perhaps in the spirit of equality, neither character is portrayed as particularly sympathetic. Madam is always coming up with silly ideas in order to fit in more with the new way of life. Eve meanwhile keeps coming up with ways of obtaining extra cash out of Madam and others.

There is also a lot of political humor with strips mentioning topical incidents and also featuring some of the political figures in the news–so the Zapiro book is a nice companion. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DUA LIPA-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #121 (December 4, 2020).

I first encountered Dua Lipa a few years ago when I was watching the NPR series Field Recordings.  It showed Dupa Lipa in 2016 singing a song from a balcony.  An accompanying essay said that she was hoping to “break America.”  I said I thought her song was fine.

I guess she has now broken America as she was on lots of best of lists this year (and the blurb lists her as a “global megastar.”

I haven’t actually heard anything from this album (or any of her albums–oh, she only has two), so this is really my introduction to her.

Of Kosovar Albanian descent, Dua Lipa was raised in the UK and rose to super stardom in the three years since her eponymous debut album dropped in 2017.

The band gets a remarkably full sound for having just a bass (Matthew Carroll) and a guitar (Alex Lanyon).  Even when Lanyon solos, the recording is robust.

I do find it strange that she has FOUR backing singers, though (Naomi Scarlett, Ciara O’Connor, Izzy Chase, and Matthew Allen).  I can’t hear that any of them are doing anything different than the others, making me thing two or even one would suffice, but whatever, it’s good to give musicians a job, right.

And, this is the first time she has been able

to reconnect with her band for their only performance since their tour in support of her sophomore album, Future Nostalgia, was cancelled in March. This vibrant four song set of dance hits, all from Future Nostalgia, will surely have you cutting up the floor in your kitchen while quarantining in the cold weather.

All four of these songs are enjoyable but pretty forgettable.  Even though You can sing along by the end of the song, it’s not likely you’ll be humming them an hour later.

“Levitating” has a fun descending vocal melody and a funky bass line.  I do rather like th emiddle “rapped” section because I like hearing Lipa’s accent as she says her London o’s in

My love is like a rocket, watch it blast-off
And I’m feeling so electric, dance my ass off

“Pretty Please” is a fun dancer. “Love Again” has a lovely full guitar introduction.  And the refrain of “God damn, you got me in love again,” is quite arresting.

“Don’t Start Now” has a cool funky bass line and a catchy chorus–definitely fun to dance along to.

[READ: January 2, 2021] “Our Lady of the Quarry”

This story is written in second person plural (and translated by Megan McDowell).

A group of younger (16 year old) girls are jealous of an older girl, Silvia.  Silvia has a place of her own, a job with a salary, and a know-it-all attitude:

If one of us discovered Frida Kahlo, oh, Silvia had already visited Frida’s house with her cousin in Mexico.

Silvia’s hair was perfectly dyed, she always had money and, worst of all, Diego liked her. (more…)

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