Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Violence’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: PORTUGAL THE MAN-“Who’s Gonna Stop Me” (feat. “Weird Al” Yankovic) (2020).

Portugal. The Man and “Weird Al” (punctuation buddies, clearly) have worked together in various ways in the past.  But here is something totally weird for Weird Al.  He is providing serious verses to a serious song.

Portugal. The Man songs tend to be dancey and fun, but this song is quite serious (and the video is fantastic).

A quiet opening of drums and echoing keyboard notes.  The hook comes when the vocals speed up in the middle of the first verse.

There are some gorgeous “ooohs” and then Al’s verse comes.  Al obviously has a great voice–he can mimic anyone–he is perfectly matched to the original vocal line and his voice sounds great singing “sneaking out, jumping over backyard fences, we’re always looking for freedom.”

After some more of those haunting oohs, a loud drum fill introduces the second half of the song which elevates the song into a slightly more danceable section full of drums and voices.

And then comes the incredible hook of “toooooooo high!”  The vocal range from the deep “too” the soaring “high” is outstanding.

It sounds like Portugal. The Man are taking their music in yet another direction and this one is quite a good one.

[READ: October 10, 2020] Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City

I read a positive review of K.J. Parker’s “follow up” to this book called How to Rule an Empire and Get Away With It.  When I picked up that book, I saw that the back cover said it was the follow up to Sixteen.  I assumed that meant it was a sequel and that I should read Sixteen first.  Well, Sixteen ends pretty definitively.  It turns out that Empire takes place seven years later and while I haven’t read it yet, I think it’s good I read this one first.

Also, K.J. Parker is the pseudonym of Tom Holt, a fantasy author I have not read but whom I gather I would like a lot.  So it was a good thing to read the review of Empire.

Parker has written several trilogies as well as a few stand-alone books.  I bring this up because I’ve read that some of the characteristics of this story reference other parts of his stories (this is a stand alone story, but I guess there might be parts that refer to his other books).

Like, for instance, the blues and the greens. These are two of the dominant races in the book.  I had a hard time telling them apart because there was no real introduction of either group. It was clear they hated each other, but I couldn’t figure out why (which I assumed was the point). At any rate, another reviewer says that the blues and greens are part of his other books, so maybe they are explained elsewhere.

The City appears to also be a thing that Parker likes to play around with.  In this book, the City is run by the Robur, a dominating group who have successfully conquered much of the surrounding lands. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: LITTLE BIG TOWN-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #91 (October 6, 2020).

Little Big Town is a country band that has been around for a while.  I feel like I’ve heard of them, but I’m not sure.

Evidently the band is really the four main singers, but they have added more touring members for this Concert.

They open with “Nightfall.” It has nice folkie guitar and Karen Fairchild sings with a strong folksinger style. The snaps from Hubert Payne’s drums really ring out in a cool way.  Thee upright bass John Thomasson adds a nice anchor to the melody.

I thought maybe they weren’t all that country after all.  But as soon as the chorus jumps in and the accents start flying–especially the high notes from Kimberly Schlapman–the country has come into the house.  The song is catchy though.

Up next guitarist Phillip Sweet jokes is the “most profound thing” they’ve done.  “Wine, Beer, Whiskey” opens with a surprise trumpet intro from Jacob Bryant.  Although songs about drinking are about as cliché as they come, the stompin,’ dopey tone is quite fun and Jimi Westbrook’s lead delivery sells it well.

They apparently use some songwriters known as the Love Junkies who came up with “Girl Crush.”  There’s some nice harmonies on this track.  You really can’t hear keyboard player Akil Thompson on the other songs, but his chords ring through here.  Westbrook puts down his guitar while Sweet plays.

They end with “Boondocks” their first hit about where they come from.  I like the bowed bass and Evan Weatherford’s slide guitar lead, but the thought of thousands of people stompin’ along to these lyrics is a tad disturbing.

[READ: October 5, 2020] Parable of the Talents [an excerpt]

During the COVID Quarantine, venerable publisher Hingston & Olsen created, under the editorship of Rebecca Romney, a gorgeous box of 12 stories.  It has a die-cut opening to allow the top book’s central image to show through (each book’s center is different).  You can get a copy here. This is a collection of science fiction stories written from 1836 to 1998.  Each story imagines the future–some further into the future than others. As it says on the back of the box

Their future.  Our present.  From social reforms to climate change, video chat to the new face of fascism, Projections is a collection of 12 sci-fi stories that anticipated life in the present day.

About this story, Romney writes:

I’ve ended this collection with a meteor.  An African -America woman born with “hyperempathy” must navigate the 2020as and 2030s in a hellscape formed by climate change disasters…  The reader is introduced to a rising demagogue whose slogan in “make America great again.”  Did that send chills down your spine?

At the time she was writing, however, it’s more likely she was inspired by the past than by the future.  When Ronald Reagan accepted the presidential nomination from the 1980 Republican National Committee, he gave a speech in which he promised, “For those who’ve abandoned hope, we’ll restore hope and we’ll welcome them into a great national crusade to make America great again.  Butler perceived the problems behind that phrase and used science fiction to explore how such a mindset could lead to history repeating itself, resulting in story that is even more powerful today than when she first wrote it.

I first looked at the date of 1998 and thought it was so current, not exactly realizing it was 22 years (and a lifetime) ago.  Without even reading the story, just reading the above paragraph, it’s pretty easy to see exactly what Reagan wrought.  He really was the beginning of the end for the country.

And Butler could totally read the writing on the wall.

Not much happens in this excerpt.  A farm is burned and most people killed. the refugees take shelter with the narrator at their farm/commune.

It’s the details below that are so chilling. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: JHENÉ AIKO-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #89 (October 1, 2020).

This is the 89th Tiny Desk Home Concert (if I’m counting correctly) and I am really surprised that this is probably the 40th one (not counting at all) in which I’ve never heard of the artist even though they are referred to as a star or at least wildly popular.

In this Tiny Desk (home) concert, R&B star Jhené Aiko coasts through an eight-song medley that plays like the ultimate nod to her legions of fans — fans who’ve been begging for a Tiny Desk for a long time.

Is “star” warranted?  I don’t know.  But here’s her raving blurb:

The Los Angeles native’s star status is a result of her music’s versatility and vulnerability. Jhené Aiko Efuru Chilombo has carved out a space of her own over the past decade, despite a rapidly changing R&B landscape. As a songwriter, she leaves no stone unturned, explicitly expressing her struggle, joy and sexuality while always administering the vibe.

The set begins with Aiko stirring a singing bowl, which I admit is pretty nice. I have a tiny one, but it’s nowhere near as cool as hers are.

Backed by an ensemble of masked players, Aiko bookends her set with a sound bath of singing bowls that’s peace personified through sound.

I appreciated the way the note of the singing bowl segues perfectly into Julian Le’s opening piano for “Lotus (Intro).”  Aiko has an old-fashioned vocal style–deep and breathy.

The short song fades out and in comes Brain Warfield’s thumping percussion and a gorgeous harp trill from Gracie Sprout that signals “Stranger.”

It is also short and as it fades and she drinks some tea, the bass from Bubby comes sliding in to open “Do Better Blues.”  The song pauses and she says she wants only three things in a relationship:

Eyes that won’t cry ; lips that won’t lie ; love that won’t die

Things slow down to the piano and chimes as the band jumps into “To Love & Die.”  Iam quite impressed wit her vocal restraint.  There’s a few moments of R&B diva wailing, but mostly, she sings very nicely and prettily with no histrionics.

This works especially well on “Born Tired” which opens with just a harp.  It’s impressive how well this acoustic setup works with these songs.

This medley of songs is disconcerting because everything is so short. She only plays two minutes of “Born Tired,” before Bubby’s high chords on the six string bass introduce “W.A.Y.S.” which has the most R&B styled-vocals so far.

“Summer 2020” opens with harp and piano and a spoken introduction from Jhené  as she introduces the “quarantine edition” of her band.  After a verse she throws in a verse from “Everything Must Go” without changing the music.  I do have to wonder about the mindset of someone who writes the lyrics:

I am no god or messiah
But here’s what I know

Three chimes on the singing bowls introduce “Eternal Sunshine” as she sings almost a capella.  The band comes in to flesh out the song and she ends with a lengthy R&B warble which quickly fades out as the song comes to an end.

I’m still not sure if she’s a star, but I am really impressed with her voice and musical choices in this set.  Often, I have found that when I really like an R&B performer’s Tiny Desk, it’s because of the way it is stripped down–both instrumentally and in production terms.  So I’m not going to listen to her album because this set was a perfect introduction to her and just enough for me to enjoy.

[READ: September 24, 2020] “The Intensive Care Unit” 

During the COVID Quarantine, venerable publisher Hingston & Olsen created, under the editorship of Rebecca Romney, a gorgeous box of 12 stories.  It has a die-cut opening to allow the top book’s central image to show through (each book’s center is different).  You can get a copy here. This is a collection of science fiction stories written from 1836 to 1998.  Each story imagines the future–some further into the future than others. As it says on the back of the box

Their future.  Our present.  From social reforms to climate change, video chat to the new face of fascism, Projections is a collection of 12 sci-fi stories that anticipated life in the present day.

About this story, Romney writes

When I first thought about stories for this collection, I knew J.G. Ballard had to make an appearance.  Initially, I had chosen an entirely different piece.  Then COVID-19 came to the United States and I learned how very bad I was at predicting the future.  ‘The Intensive Care Unit’…is a story about living entirely in isolation: no human-to-human contact, ever. Even families live together through screens, not physically in the same space.

Frustratingly, she ends with

I’ll leave you to guess which other Ballard story this one replaced.  [I don’t know him well enough to even hazard a guess].

I haven’t read many J.G. Ballard stories, but I have it in my head that all of his stories are very dark and very violent.  The few that I have read certainly were.  And this one is no exception.

It’s starts off with a violent sentence: “Within a few minutes the next attack will begin.”

The room he is in is filled with his wife’s faint breathing, his son’s irregular movements, marked by smeared hand prints on the carpet, and his daughter’s limp body under the fallen lamp. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: NUBYA GARCIA-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #81 (September 16, 2020).

Nubya Garcis is a jazz saxophonist and this Tiny Desk (Home) Concert is unlike any other thus far.

Look to the left of Nubya Garcia’s Tiny Desk (home) concert and you’ll see a hanging plant swaying right above the keys. It never stops moving during the next 23 minutes, and it’s for a bizarre reason. Garcia’s (home) concert took place on a boat — a first in Tiny Desk history.

Garcia and her band are at Soup Studio, a recording facility built on a decommissioned floating lighthouse moored on the River Thames. It’s also where Garcia recorded her excellent new album, SOURCE. This set features three songs from the record; the title track starts it off with a reggae, dub vibe.

“Source” opens with some great low end from Daniel Casmir’s double bass.  The main melody comes from Joe Armon-Jones’s simple keyboard hits.  Sam Jones makes the drums almost a lead instrument as well, as he plays a lot of cymbals and interesting fills.

There are two backing singers for these songs.  Richie Seivwright and Cassie Kinoshi add some ahhs and oohs as needed.  They’re not intrusive and add a human element to Garcia’s otehriwse otherworldly saxophone soloing.

At around eight minutes, the singers do a lot of woohing and scatting which I find less interesting than the rest of the band does.

After nearly 12 minutes, everything slows down and Casmir does a bass solo as the introduction to “Pace.”  Armon-Jones plays piano with his right hand keyboards with his left to lay down a complex musical tapestry which Garcia weaves her saxophone all over.  Armon-Jones also gets a quiet piano solo, then the song takes off again, crashing to a wild conclusion with frenetic drumming and piano.

“Boundless Beings” opens with a slow saxophone introduction and the bass matching the notes. This song is only two minutes, and I assume that’s because time runs out on her video or her session.

[READ: September 15, 2020] “Whose Little Girl Are You?”

I had read Fox’s Desperate Characters after three authors that I like all championed it.  S. knows of Paula Fox as a children’s author.  I had no idea she had the kind of crazy childhood that this memoir lets on.  Indeed, this is an excerpt from her memoir Borrowed Finery.  And, while I’ve no doubt this is all true.  It is as exciting (and horrifying) as fiction.

When Paula was born her parents deposited her at an orphanage.  Paula’s mother Elise was a panicked nineteen-year-old and wanted to get rid of her as quickly as possible.  Her father Paul brought her to a Manhattan foundling house.  She was taken in by the Reverend Elwood Corning who raised her and whom she called Uncle Elwood.

Her maternal grandmother came to New York from Cuba and learned of her whereabouts.  She intended to take her back home to Cuba with her, but her grandmother worked as a companion to a rich old cousin and could not possibly look after a baby, so Paula stayed with Uncle Elwood.

When she was about five, her father came to see her. He had a large box which he dropped with a thud.  He looked at her and said “‘There you are,'”\ as if I’d been missing for such along time that he’d almost given up searching for me.”   The box contained a whole host of books. The next morning when Paula woke up he was not there anymore.

Later that year Uncle Elwood drove her to Provincetown where her parents were living.  The main memory she took from that visit (because all she ever did was visit her parents) was that she had found a large steamer trunk and was exploring it when her mother walked in and yelled, “What are you doing?”  And then, “Don’t cry!  Don’t you dare cry!”

A year later they were living in New York City and Paula visited them for a few hours.  When her mother came into the room she stared at Paula, her eyes like embers. Then she flung her glass and its contents at the girl.  Water and ice fell all lover her.

The next time, she went to see them they were staying in a hotel in New York.  They had room service for dinner and Paula ordered lamb chops.  It felt special.  When the meal came Paula said “There’s no milk.” Her father stood, grabbed the tray of food and dropped it down the airshaft saying “Okay, Pal, since it wasn’t to your pleasure.”  She had no dinner that night.

Her parents were often leaving Paula with strangers. One time she went to Grand Central Station on a train by herself and was met not by her father but by a couple–actors who knew her father–with Great Danes.  They expected her father to turn up any moment.  Two days later he showed up.

Another time she visited them in Los Angeles.  Her father’s sister Aunt Jessie took her.  Jessie stayed for a few days and on the day that she left, Paula’s parents went out for the evening leaving Paula by herself.  She wandered around and eventually wandered out the front door which locked behind her.

A neighbor found her and brought her to his house where his wife made dinner for her.  The next day she walked home and opened the door shouting “Daddy!”  Her father jumped out of bed–the woman next to him was not her mother–and whisked her out of the bedroom quickly.  He sat on a chair and began to spank her. The maid stopped him–Paula years later realized how brave it was for her to speak out.  A Few days later he dropped her off in the care of an older woman.  Years later he told her it was his motehr’s reaction to Paula that made him send her away–either she goes or I go.

A few years later in Malibu, she visited on weekends. The house had a deck that jutted into the ocean.  One day, her father gabbed her hands and dropped her into the Pacific . She freaked out fearing that she was drowning, but her father laughed because it was so shallow.

One night she told her father that she had a toothache.  He mother had entered the room and said I’ll fix it for you.  She put Paula in the rumble seat of the car and drove madly through the winding roads.  Paula was shaken like a rattle. They drove for twenty minutes (it felt like forever).  Finally they returned home and her mother looked at her and said “Do you still have a toothache?”

When Paula was eight (all of that happened before she was eight!), her Spanish grandmother came for her.  She had lighter duties in Cuba and brought Paula home with her.  Paula lived there, in Hormiguero for many years, going to school there–having a crash introduction to Spanish. She had nothing but freedom there but soon grew very bored and lonely.

When she was ten in 1933, her family fled to he country for New York because the President of Cuba, Gerargo Machado, had been overthrown.

Good lord, how did she ever get through it without going crazy.  And what on earth are her children’s stories like?

 

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: PHOEBE BRIDGERS-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #78 (September 10, 2020).

Phoebe Bridgers is in the White House!

Obviously anybody would be better in the White House than the current squatter, but Phoebe Bridgers would certainly be more fun than any other choices at the moment.

I love that Phoebe fully commits to being in the White House by having her band wear Secret Service-looking suits while she is wearing a very Presidential pantsuit (instead of that skeleton onesie she’s been in since the quarantine began).

For the first two songs she stands behind the oval office desk while Marshall Vore on drums and Harrison Whitford on guitar accompany her.

She opens with “Kyoto” one of my favorite songs of the year.  This more acoustic version loses a little bit of the magic from the recorded version, but that chorus is just so tasty and Phoebe’s voice (and the backing vocals) sound fantastic.

They open with “Kyoto,” a story song based on her first trip to Japan, followed with a sweet version of “Moon Song” and the sad details of loving someone who doesn’t love themself.

“Moon Song” is one of those beautiful songs that is lyrically very powerful but is just a hair too slow for me.  Of course after a few more listens (especially to the lyrics) it will sound perfect, I’m sure.  I had read an article recently about a line in this song

We hate Tears in Heaven
But it’s sad that his baby died

The article said that she originally wanted to say “We hate Eric Clapton,” but decided against it.  But that she really does hate Clapton:

I have such an Eric Clapton rant, because I think it’s just extremely mediocre music, but also he’s a famous racist.

I didn’t know this but apparently during an August 1976 gig in Birmingham, Eric Clapton made racist comments and praised Enoch Powell, inadvertently inspiring the Rock Against Racism campaign.

Wow.  Has he ever made amends?

The song picks up some power by the end, as Phoebe’s song tend to do.

And then comes the kicker, as Phoebe introduces herself with the words “I hope everybody’s enjoying their apocalypse,” the band kicks into her surreal doomsday tune “I Know the End.”

It starts like many other Phoebe songs–slow and thoughtful.  But this one builds and builds.  Midway through the song, they turn off the green screen projector and everyone walks (while the song is still playing) to another part of the room for the end.

And what an end it is: The trio expands to an ensemble

Whitford and Bridgers switch to electric guitar, Vore moves to a full drum kit, Emily Retsas joins on bass (looking bad ass in her blonde hair, dark suit and sunglasses), Nick White adds keyboards and Odessa Jorgensen plays violin.  The song feel so much louder (there’s been no bass so far).  You can feel the tension mounting

And then scattered throughout the screen are videos of Phoebe fans–recording from bedrooms, cars, backyards and trampolines–singing the chorus, air drumming and smiling big smiles.

And at the end everybody

lets out the kind of cathartic scream that has come to define 2020 for so many of us.

Followed by Phoebe’s winning smile.

[READ: September 10, 2020] “Dear Mr. President”

This story is written as a letter to The Honorable George Bush, President of the United States.

It is written by a Marine, Lance Corporal James Laverne.  [He is clearly a loser or a sucker, according to our current president].

He starts the letter with greetings and salutations and a fine memory of when Bush landed his helicopter at Laverne’s station in Iraq.  The men stood at attention for two hours while Bush was in a tent talking with someone.  Then when he came out he spoke to Laverne.  When Laverne said he was from Wisconsin, Bush said “Is cheddar better?” to which Laverne gave a hearty “yes sir!”

Then he tells a story of the time he was attacked.  He and Brecks went into a burned-out building where they’d heard there was sniper.  But when they got there it wasn’t a sniper, it was a dog.  Brecks went to rescue the dog, but when he bent over, someone on the ground threw a grenade onto the roof which blew Brecks to pieces. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: clipping.-“Chapter 319″/”Knees on the Ground” (2020).

On June 19, clipping. released this excellent track, “Chapter 319.”

clipping. has often released music that is harsh and unpleasant (great, but not “pleasant”).  This song, removes a bit of the musical harshness to focus on the vocals.  It’s still abrasive and cacophonous, but it’s meant to be heard by a lot of people.

After a sample, Daveed Diggs raps over a rumbling bass line.

Left, right, left

How long can we holler when it ain’t no breath?
You keep killing fathers without no regrets
Then keep on countin’ dollars ’til it ain’t none left
So the streets gon’ keep on marching like
Left, right, left

The middle of the song adds some complicated drums and effects but the focus is the lyrics:

This march a foot in yo fucking throat to choke out
The whole assumption that you are here to protect … us
This government doesn’t respect … us
And somehow they seem to expect … us to accept
The power a piece of shit millionaire president wants to project

Diggs raps in a normal flow and then adds some remarkably fast verses.  But the spotlight comes with this section, repeated twice.  It is not the chorus, it is more of a hook, with the music pausing at the full stop.

donald trump is a white supremacist / full stop
if you vote for him again, you’re a white supremacist / full stop

Full stop.

The other song on this release is called “Knees on the Ground” which was originally released in 2014.

The fact that lyrically it could have been written in 2020 is a succinct testament to systemic racism in four minutes.

Six thumps that sound like someone pounding on a door are the only sound bedsides Diggs’ lyrics (and some sound effects).   The pounding is unnerving as you can imagine who is on the other side.

An intense middle section has this quickly rapped verse:

Brown boy sitting on his knees with his eyes shut
Hands behind his head fingers woven pinkies up
Saying he ain’t even doin’ nothing what you want T
hey threw him on the ground when he called them all punks
Retro blue and white Jordans tongues out
Over the black jeans cuffed just the right amount
To make them bunch by the calves how he like
Just ran out of boxer briefs so he wearing tighty-whities
With a white t-shirt and the breeze catch it just so
Pressing it tight against his chest so the red hole
Is getting wider and the blood is soaking in the fabric
And pooling on the ground he looks down automatic
And the dark pavement gets darker when it’s wet
He’s losing balance slow with his hands on his head
So his face hits first and his eyes go dead
And the air is sucked out of the world with his last breath

Then the pounding comes back for another verse.  The chorus has some eerily quiet echoing chords as he recites:

Keep your knees on the ground where they belong.

It ends with noise and static.

Proceeds from the sale of the song go to organizations for racial justice.

[READ: July 20, 2020] Stamped

This book has been on the top of everyone’s recommended lists for being proactive about understanding systemic racism.

I didn’t quite understand what the subtitle meant by a remix, but the acknowledgements explain that Kendi wrote his book Stamped from the Beginning as

a history book that could be devoured by as many people as possible–without shortchanging the serious complexities–because racist ideas and their history have affected us all. But Jason Reynolds took his remix of Stamped from the Beginning to another level of accessibility and luster…that will impact generations of young and not so young people.

Reynolds is a multi-award-winning author of books for children.  He is also a teacher.  He knows how to write a compelling story.

I haven’t read Stamped form the Beginning, but this remix is outstanding. (more…)

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: BUSCABULLA-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #66 (August 18, 2020).

I know of Buscabulla from some glowing reviews of their debut album.  Their story is an interesting one as well.

Buscabulla is made up of husband and wife Luis Alfredo Del Valle and Raquel Berrios, two Puerto Rico-born musicians who were based in New York until 2017. When their birthplace was devastated by Hurricanes Maria and Irma that year, they decided to leave New York and go back to where they were born. It was an emotional journey, one that inspired the songs of Regresa and which they chronicled for an upcoming mini-documentary.

Despite that setup, their music is soft and gentle–ethereal and beautiful.  Raquel Berrios’ voice is delicately echoed and sexy without being over the top.

Their setting for this Tiny Desk (Home) (Beach) Concert is the trunk of their van.  Luis del Valle has created a studio within the car that perfectly reflects the band’s sound.  So two of them are

sitting inside their car at the beach in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico performing their Tiny Desk (home) concert. It’s as if the bubble of being inside the car will protect them from any chances of encountering the virus on the beach. But it’s also a reflection of how the band’s atmospheric sonic textures get inside your head when we listen with headphones. Buscabulla set up shop in New York years ago, but returned to their home to help support the island’s redevelopment — thus their entry from the beach.

It looks almost like a Zoom meeting background, with the gentle waves lapping against the shore, although in the beginning of the video you can see some people walking on the beach.

The set starts with “Mio” which has a cool slinky bass line from Luis Del Valle and an inset video of JD Matías playing timbales and cowbell.  And although LD Valentín is laying down some nice backing keys (also in an inset), it’s Berrios who plays the trippy keyboard solo.

“Nydia” has a funkier bass line and layered spacey keys from Valentín. Berrios’ voice floats above all of it.

The duo have to maneuver a bit in that cramped space to play the final song.  Luis puts his bass outside of the car (!) and switches to keys.  Berrios also plays keys and this lovely set ends as beautifully as it began.

I’m not sure what kind of car this is, but it’s a pretty decent ad for trunk space–maybe Buscabulla could make some cash.  It’s also a pretty nice ad for the gorgeous beaches of Puerto Rico.

[READ: August 20, 2020] “You Are  My Dear Friend”

I thought this story was going to be about a British couple living in India, because it opens with a British couple living in India.  They are hosting a party and their daughters’ au-pair, Geeta, brings their two little girls to meet everyone.

One of the party goers is a middle-aged Indian man sitting by himself.  He looks old and tired.

A few days later Geeta is at the markets and she runs into this man.  She has trouble placing him at first then she realizes that this man, Srikanth, was the man from the party.  He talks with her and she resists engaging with him at first.  Then she rethinks, and turns to talk to the man.

They met a few more times and then decided to get married. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: BORIS-Archive Volume Four “Evil Stack Live” (2014/2020). 

In early August, Boris digitally released six archival releases.  Volume Four is called “Evil Stack Live” and it is a fantastic-sounding concert from 2003.  Boris released their fourth and fifth albums in 2002 and 2003.  This fifty minute set picks songs from both of these albums: Heavy Rocks and Akuma No Uta.

Full set live recording [NHK Tokyo, 15th May 2003] that was broadcast on Japanese government-owned radio. The setlist is compiled from songs representative of their “Uppercase BORIS” distinction, including tracks from “Heavy Rocks” (2002) and “Akuma no Uta” (2003).  (Originally released on March 5, 2014. Included in Archive 2, limited to 1,000 copies)

The show open with some splashing gong and two songs from Heavy Rocks (2002).  That instantly recognizable riff from “Heavy Friends” kicks in as Atsuo screams to open the show.  The riff continues, eventually picked up by Takeshi on the bass while Wata unveils a soaring guitar solo.  It’s segues into the fast and heavy “Korosu.”  This song has a catchy chorus that’s punctuated by a nifty riff from Wata.

The set shifts to the blazing rocker “Ibitsu” from Akuma No Uta.  The song is three minutes long and has some great guitar licks and solos from Wata while Atsuo and Takeshi sing the lyrics.  The really fast riffing at 2 minutes is energizing as they then return to Heavy Rocks for “Death Valley” which combines a classic riff with some great droning verses.  The song stretches out to almost seven minutes with some heavy jamming in the middle.

There’s a slight pause before the start of the epic 11 minute “Naki Kyoku.”  It starts slowly with some lovely picked guitar from Wata.  After two minutes, Wata begins her extended solo.  Atsuo and Takeshi jam a simple rhythm while Wata plays her soaring solo.  Atsuo sings a catchy line (although I don’t know what he’s saying) as the song jams out around a thumping bass line and Wata’s chill noodling.  The middle has a kind of call and response with the guitar and drums as Wata intersperses her licks between Atsuo’s drum fills.

They jump out of the slower song with two from Akuma.  First is the fury of “Furi,” a ripping heavy song with lots of chaotic drums and yelps and screams (I think Takeshi is singing lead).  A few gong crashes introduce the beginning of “Akuma no Uta.”  It’s a slow grooving song with Takeshi’s heavy bass and Wata’s simple riffage.  After two minutes the song takes off in a classic heavy jam–ripping guitar work and fast bass and drums.

They end the set with two songs from Heavy Rocks.  “Dyna-Sore” is a fast rocker with a catchy guitar riff and chord pattern.  The call and response between Takeshi and Atsuo while Wata plays the soloing riffs is only exceeded by the heavy middle drum section that turns into a super fast end riff.  The set ends with “1970” another great riff-based rocker.  This song features Takeshi and Atsuo singing together and a great rumbling solo bass moment before Wata ends the song with another ripping solo.

The quality of this recording is top notch and the selection of songs is just fantastic.  This is a great archival release.

Takeshi: Bass, Guitar & Vocal ; Wata: Guitar & Echo ; Atsuo: Drums & Vocal.

[READ: August 15, 2020] “Knife Play”

This is yet another fragment from Franz Kafka collected in The Lost Writings.  The one big surprise for me is how well fleshed-out the part of the story that exists is.   It’s unfinished, but the sentences that are there are well composed (depending on how much translator Michael Hofmann has added to or spruced up the original German).

It feels like he he plotted and executed the beginning of the story very thoroughly and then just stopped.

In this fragment, the narrator is sitting next to his wife in a theater box.  The play was exciting–a jealous man was raising a knife to stab his wife.

The narrator leaned over to his wife, but what they thought was curtain was actually a man.  He and his wife jumped in shock. (more…)

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »