Archive for the ‘Katherine Silver’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: Æ MAK-“We Have It Right Here” (2020).

Æ MAK is Aoife McCann.  She creates a fascinating tapestry of music.  It feels classical and operatic and yet also feels very electronic and oddly poppy.

This song begins with muted xylophones -sounding electronic tones playing a pretty melody (which reminds me of Björk).

McCann’s voice comes in and lilts and flutters almost bird-like. She sings in English but with interesting emphases on words.

Her vocal delivery and melodies conjure Regina Spektor.

About halfway through the, until now entirely electronic song, adds some soft acoustic guitar and gentle bells.

The second chorus is almost all voice with simple percussion and a kind of Kate Bush vocal trill.

The electronics come back in and suddenly start getting fuller and louder–filling up your headspace with sounds as her voice echoes itself and adds other lines before building to a remarkably catchy ending.

There’s so much going on in this song even though it often feels very minimal.

And wait until you see her on stage.

[READ: September 21, 2020] On Contemporary Art

I have enjoyed Aira’s novels and was intrigued by this short essay about Contemporary Art.

The entire book is 60 pages and it includes and Foreword and an Afterword.  That jibes with the premise of the imprint itself.  Ekphrasis Press reprints works about visual art that are not meant to be academic in nature–but compelling as prose.

In the Foreword Will Chancellor, talks about how language can throw you off.  He recalls bring a child and seeing the Objects in the Mirror are Closer Than They Appear warning.  He wondered how objects and their appearances could diverge.  He continues that Aira suggests this gap between appearance and reality might be the origin of cotemporary art.


The main body of the book is Aira’s essay, translated by Katherine Silver.

He starts by saying he is a writer who looks for inspiration in painting.  He says that cave painters painted facts, but it took a person relating the adventure, the storyteller, to make the episode come alive.

As a lover of art, he subscribes to many art magazines, namechecking Artforum, Art in America, Flash Art, Frieze, art press and more.  He says the magazines look better every year but that their ability to convey art gets worse every year–they cannot properly convey what an art piece looks like.  You have to read the texts to see what is happening.

His essay concerns the Enemy of Contemporary Art who says that today’s

frauds who pretend to be artists depend on a justifying discourse to validate the nonsense they produce.

They say that contemporary art doesn’t speak for itself–that it needs critics to explain it. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ROY AYERS-Tiny Desk Concert #712 (March 1, 2018).

I hadn’t heard of Roy Ayers, although I imagine I’ve heard his work somewhere before.  I love the vibes so I was looking forward to his set.

I was a little bummed to hear him singing–I assumed it would be all instrumental. Especially since his songs aren’t exactly lyrically masterful.  But the jazzy funky solos were pretty great.

Roy Ayers [is a] 77-year-old jazz-funk icon.  He sauntered through the office with a Cheshire grin on his face, sharing jokes with anyone within earshot. Accompanying him was a trio of brilliantly seasoned musicians — keyboardist Mark Adams, bassist Trevor Allen and drummer Christopher De Carmine. Later during the performance, pride washed across Ayers’ face as his bandmates took the spotlight. (Be sure to watch as Adams woos not just the room but brightens Ayers’ face during his solo.)

The set began with one of Ayers’ more recognizable hits: an extended version of “Searching,” a song that embodies the eternal quest for peace and love.  The vibes solo at 2 and a half minutes is worth the wait, though.

The lyrics are essentially.  I’m searching, searching, searching searching. It takes over a minute for him to even get to the vibes!  It’s followed by a groovy keyboard solo that starts mellow be really takes off by the end.

During “Black Family” (from his 1983 album Lots Of Love), you’ll hear him call out “Fela” throughout. That’s because Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti was a huge influence on Ayers in the late 1970s; the two eventually collaborated on an album, 1980’s Music Of Many Colors. “Black Family” is, in part, a tribute to Fela, even if the original version didn’t include his name.

Again the lyrics: “lo-lo-lo-lo-long time ago” and not much else repeated over and over and over. But it’s all lead up to a great vibes solo (as the band gets more and more intense).  I love that the keyboardist has a keytar as well and is playing both keys at the same time–soloing on the keytar with an awesome funky sound.  There’s even a cool bass solo.

Concluding this mini-concert, Ayers closed the set out with his signature tune, “Everybody Loves the Sunshine”, a feel-good ode if there ever was one. The essence of this song flowed right through him and out to the NPR audience.

Another terrific vibes solo is followed by a keytar solo which is full of samples of people singing notes (they sound like Steely Dan samples)–it’s weird and kind of cool.

[READ: August 2017] McSweeney’s No 46

As the subtitle reflects this issue is all about Latin American crime.  It features thirteen stories selected by Daniel Galera.  And in his introduction he explains what he was looking for:

DANIEL GALERA-Introduction
He says it used to be easy to talk about Latin American fiction–magical realism, slums and urban violence.  But now things have expanded.  So he asked 13 writers to put their own Latin American spin on the crime story.

And of course, each McSweeney’s starts with


DANIEL ALARCÓN writes passionately about Diego Maradona’s famous “Goal of the Century” and how as a child he watched it dozens of times and then saw it thousands of times in his head.  When he learned of Maradona’s questionable “Hand of God” goal, his father said that his previous goal was so good it counted twice.  But Daniel grows sad realizing that the goal of the century also marked the beginning of Maradona’s decline.

LAIA JUFRESA this was a fascinating tale about a game called Let’s Kill Carlo that her family played.   It involves a convoluted history including her mother “inventing” a child in order for her husband to come to Mexico from Italy and avoid conscription there.  But when this child “Carlo” “came of age” they had to think of reason why he wasn’t there anymore–so they invented the Let’s Kill Carlo game.

YURI HERRERA waiting for a bus in New Orleans as a man lay in the gutter also waiting.

VALERIA LUISELLI her friend recently moved to Minneapolis with her nervous wreck Chihuahua named President.   He was diagnoses with terminal cancer and the vet encouraged all manner of alternative therapies.  This friend was a very sweet person and had many virtues. And yet perhaps through her virtue the alternative therapy seems to have worked.

FRANCISCO GOLDMAN wants to know why immigration officers at Newark Airport are such dicks (and this was before Trump–#ITMFA).  He speaks of personal examples of Mexican citizens being treated badly.  He had asked a friend to brings books for him and she was harassed terribly asked why did she need so many bags for such a short stay.  Another time he was flying back to NYC with a Mexican girlfriend.   She went through customs and he didn’t hear anything for hours.  He didn’t know if she would even make it though customs at all–even though she’d done nothing wrong.   He imagines wondering how these officers live and what their lives must be like that they seem to take pleasure in messing with other people’s lives. (more…)

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endofloveSOUNDTRACK: BECK/RECORD CLUB-LEONARD COHEN: Songs of Leonard Cohen (2010).

leonardcohenI won’t say anything because no one ever listens to me anyway. I might as well be a Leonard Cohen record.

-Neil from The Young Ones.

This second recording from Beck’s Record Club is, indeed, a Leonard Cohen record.  I like Cohen and have a bunch of his stuff.  Although he’s never been a huge favorite, I find his songwriting to be top notch.  And, since his arrangements are usually pretty sparse, it’s easy to cover his songs in a myriad of ways, which these artists certainly do.

But just to catch you up to speed about this whole Record club business:

According to the Beck/Record Club website:

Record Club is an informal meeting of various musicians to record an album in a day. The album chosen to be reinterpreted is used as a framework. Nothing is rehearsed or arranged ahead of time. A track is put up here once a week. As you will hear, some of the songs are rough renditions, often first takes that document what happened over the course of a day as opposed to a polished rendering. There is no intention to ‘add to’ the original work or attempt to recreate the power of the original recording. Only to play music and document what happens. And those who aren’t familiar with the albums in question will hopefully look for the songs in their definitive versions.

Introducing this second recording, Beck explains:

This time around the group includes Devendra Banhart, Ben, Andrew and Will from MGMT, Andrew from Wolfmother, Binki from Little Joy, and Brian and Bram returning from the first Record Club.  ‘Songs Of Leonard Cohen’ by Leonard Cohen was chosen by Andrew from MGMT. For those interested, our close second choice was Ace Of Base, which we’ll keep on the list for next time.

So, here we have Cohen’s debut.  I own it and am familiar with about half of the songs, but I didn’t want to listen to it before hearing their covers.  And so, the track listing and comments:

Suzanne (4:54)–A classic song, here given respectful treatment.  And yet they’re not afraid to play around with it, so they give it a dance beat and group vocals, all of which sound great.
Master Song (6:37).  I don’t know this song, and I don’t recognize it from this cover which is perhaps the greatest twist of a Leonard Cohen song ever. They sample Metallica’s “Master!” every time they sing the chorus.  The song is done as a rap with the voices pitched differently in every verse, there’s also a great funky bass throughout.  I assume the lyrics are the original, but I’m not sure.  The only problem with it is that it goes on for way too long.  But otherwise this is what record Club is about–having fun experimenting with songs.
Winter Lady (2:46). This is done as a pretty folk song, the way Leonard intended.
Stranger Song (5:26). This song is also dancey (with MGMT, that makes sense).  It has big drums and cool harmonies.
Sisters Of Mercy (4:36).  This is also pretty, done on an acoustic guitar with multiple singers taking turns.
So Long, Marianne (6:54).  This is also pretty faithful (of another classic).  There’s a group chorus which again sounds great.  The one difference is buzzy guitar solo.
Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye (4:27).  This has a cheap Casio vibe, yet it still sounds good.  Beck sings and the whole things is quite nice.
Stories Of The Street (5:06).  The songs starts with a simple bass and xylophone, but it gradually builds into a full band song which sounds great.
Teachers (4:04).  This is an insane punk version of the song.  It is super fast with a crazy guitar section and shouted vocals.  It shows just how adaptable Cohen’s music is
One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong (5:42).  This is a pretty, slow version of this song with keyboards as the main instrument.  It’s a very nice song until it nears then end when the singer just starts screaming and going nutty  Which is okay, but that goes on for too long at the end.

So overall, this is a very enjoyable collection of covers.  The faithful ones sound wonderful and the silly songs are, yes, silly, but they are not just tossed off (except maybe Master Song.  This must have been a lot of fun to record.

[READ: March 14, 2014] The End of Love

The End of Love is four long short stories.  Each one is about the end of a relationship.  Even though I enjoyed all four stories quite a lot, the book was a lot slower to read than I would have anticipated from its scant 163 pages.  And surprisingly, the stories weren’t sad or mopey–rather, they looked at the relationships via a slightly distant narrator who was engaged and engaging.

I have been reading a lot of Latin American writers, but this book, which was written in Spanish and translated by Katherine Silver, was written by a Spanish writer.  So that’s a little bit different in feel.

“We Were Surrounded By Palm Trees”
This story is not set in Spain. It is set on an island in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Africa.  It is about a man and his girlfriend, named Marta.  They have gone to this remote island for some secluded time alone.  But it turns out that they have to share the small boat (and therefore the small island) with another couple.  Christine and Paul are a German couple who are not outgoing and friendly as the narrator fears (he doesn’t want to spent his romantic vacation with those two), but are cordial and looking to share some of the troubles of their vacation.  One such trouble is meeting with the village elder and the chief, which Paul offers to do.

The details of the island were a little unclear to me.  I think that is somewhat intentional, but there is some confusion about the nature of the power structure on the island and what exactly people get up to there.  So when Christine goes missing, Marta is instantly concerned.  And then when Paul and Christine don’t turn up for dinner, they decide to go and find them.  Christie and Paul are involved in something that I found a bit confusing, but which involved elders of the island.

As the story draws to a close and there is yet more confusion as to where the Germans are, Marta and the narrators are at odds with each other about what to do.  And the strain begins to form between them.   Even though the details of what happened with Paul and Christine are vague, the details of Marta and the narrator are very powerful and really tell the story.  It was wonderful. (more…)

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curesSOUNDTRACK: PHISH-Billy Breathes (1996).

billyBilly Breathes is a much more mellow, acoustic feeling album from Phish.

Although the opener “Free” is a great song, with wonderful riffs.  It’s another of my favorites live, although the production sounds a little flat here, but the harmonies are great.  “Character Zero” again has a real ZZ Top feel (something many don’t really associate with Phish I’m sure).  But once the song proper kicks in, it rocks in a very Phish way.  “Waste” is a delicate song about insecurities that turns into a nice love song.  “Taste” is a rollicking piano-heavy song that gets played live pretty often and it sounds good here.

“Cars Trucks Buses” is a 2 minute instrumental that has a lot of organ in it, it’s very groovy.  “Talk” is an acoustic guitar/folky song.  You don’t hear it much live.  “Theme from the Bottom” gets us back into often-played territory, with its weird opening riff.  I really enjoy the way the bridge goes into a brief minor key, despite the overall happy vibe.  I like the harmonies towards the end, although the actual end of the song is a bit dull (the live endings are a bit more fun).

From here the album mellows out a lot.  “Train Song” is a pretty acoustic number with nice harmonies.  “Bliss” is an acoustic guitar solo.  “Billy Breathes” has more delicate harmonies and an acoustic feel.  “Sept Away” is another delicate short (90 second) song, with some more great harmonies. “Steep” is a slow, simple song (also 90 seconds) that has a pretty melody but serves more as an introduction to “Prince Caspian.”   “Prince Caspian” is a great epic-seeming song (even though it’s only 5 minutes long).  The build up is long , with the pretty chords repeating and growing fuller.  It’s a great live song and a great ending to this disc.

Although this disc has some great songs on it, it’s definitely not my favorite overall.

[READ: October 4, 2013] The Miracle Cures of Dr. Aira

This was another weird and fun book by César Aira (one of about six books he wrote that year). This one was translated by Kathleen Silver.  Ever since reading that Aira doesn’t edit his books—that he simply begins writing and lets the story keep coming out–I’ve grown suspicious of the beginnings of his stories. And so I am with this one. In the beginning there’s a whole thing about Dr Aira sleepwalking through a town.  He wakes up in various places, unsure where he is, but he’s never lost because he knows the streets so well.  This goes on for a few pages and then the plot kicks in.

Dr Aira is picked up by an ambulance—a man is dying right there in the ambulance and only Dr. Aira can save him.  Won’t Dr Aira help him? The Dr. refuses point blank.  He is convinced that this whole thing is a set up—why else would the ambulance (which he had heard for many blocks going up and down the street) be driving around with a sick man looking just for him instead of going to the hospital?  He will not help this man.  Disgusted, the ambulance driver pulls over and the Dr gets out.

So what is all this about? (more…)

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literarySOUNDTRACK: CHELSEA LIGHT MOVING-“Burroughs” (2013).

chelsea-light-moving-albumChelsea Light Moving is Thurston Moore’s new band [no comments about the state of Sonic Youth/Kim Gordon will be included in this post].  I don’t know anything about the other members of the band; I’ve not heard of any of them.  “Burroughs” is one of four new songs streaming on the Matador Records site.

The song is spot on for the noisy/sloppy style of Sonic Youth.  Fans of Sonic Youth will certainly detect some differences–the counterpoint of Lee Ranaldo is definitely absent, indeed, the entire low end sounds very different from what SY would create given this song.  But man, if you’re jonesing for some chaotic noise, this song has it in spades.

Moore is capable of creating some traditionally beautiful songs (see his Trees album), but here it’s all about discord.  The song is over six minutes long and the last 3 or so are devoted to some noisy guitars in both chords and solos.

While SY has not shied away from long songs, this song doesn’t feel like an epic–it’s not multi part or “extended” exactly.  It’s a fairly straightforward rock song with an extended solo section.  It’s really great.  I’m looking forward to the whole album (and I love the cover, too),

[READ: March 23, 2012] The Literary Conference

This has been my favorite Aira book so far.  And that’s probably because it is wonderfully over the top, mixing fantasy, sci-fi, genetics and literature.  All in 90 pages.

The story is about César Aira, translator.  He has been invited to a literary conference in Venezuela.  While there, he solves the age-old problem of The Macuto Line.  The Macuto Line is, essentially a rope which is attached to a pirate treasure.  For generations, people have tried all kinds of  things to impact this line–but it has proven to be unsolvable and indestructible.   Aira happened to be staying near the Line in a hotel.  He claims that he is no genius, but it just happens that the elements of his life have given him the exact information he needs to solve the puzzle.  And with a simple touch of the rope, the treasure is his.

But that’s just part 1 and has nothing to do with the rest of the story, really.  For despite his newfound wealth, he will still be attending the literary conference.  Primarily because he knows that Carlos Fuentes will be there (Fuentes is a real person, a Mexican author who died in 2012).  For, you see, Aira is planning to clone Fuentes in his bid to take over the world.  (In addition to being a translator, Aira is a mad scientist). (more…)

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