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Archive for the ‘Witches’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: WIRE-“Outdoor Miner” (1978).

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.

Wire is another band that is quite unlike most of the other bands on the mixtape.  Over the years, Wire became a softer, somewhat more poppy band.  But on their first couple of albums, they were pretty abrasive.

True, their music was unconventional–which Murdoch clearly likes, but unlike the other bands, this album, Chairs Missing starts with some really sharp guitars and heavy bass and drums.  Although some of the later songs do have softer choruses.

Interestingly most of the songs on this record are quite short–almost half are under three minutes.  Murdoch seems to like short songs, so “Outdoor Miner” being less than two minutes makes sense.  It is also very different from most of the rest of the album.  The bass is smooth, the guitars jangle and Colin Newman’s voice is really gentle.  There’s also some gorgeous harmonies.

The chorus is really catchy and bouncy and the end of the song (keeping in mind the whole song is less than two minutes) features the chorus with another vocal line singing a counterpoint melody. It packs a lot of goodness in a small package.

[READ: January 31, 2021] Witches of Brooklyn

T. bought this book and knew I’d like it.  She was very right.

I liked everything about his book.  I especially liked the artwork.  As I was admiring the book, I kept thinking that her artwork was different in some way.  Then I read her biography and learned that Sophie Escabasse is French (she now lives in Brooklyn) and her favorite artist is Belgian cartoonist André François.  I didn’t know his work (his books have recently been translated into english as Gomer Goof and Marsupilami).  Escabasse’s work isn’t really like his at all, but they both share the European sensibility that I find different from American artists.

The main character Effie, is fairly straightforward looking, but her aunts are both wonderfully odd looking.  Her Aunt Selimene looks almost like an inverted bowling pin with a long thin chin; Aunt Carolta is very wide and round with wideset eyes.  But what sets her apart is that she wears the tiniest glasses on the bridge of her nose.  When I first looked at her head on, I thought they were nostrils. But they are not and they are hilarious.

The book starts off unusually with the doorbell saying Driiiiing.  I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a doorbell ring start with a D before.

The doorbell rings and two old ladies clamber down the stairs to see who it is (grumbling humorously all the way). It is a man from Adoption services; he is with a little girl.  He is wearing sunglasses even though it is 2 or 3 in the morning.  He asks for Selimene Huchbolt-Walloo.  She is sister to Emily?  Yes.  Then, in an astonishingly fast paced reveal, the man says that Selimene is now Effie’s legal guardian. (He doesn’t say that Emily died, it’s just implied, I guess).  Selimene has a raging temper and yells at the poor man while Aunt Carolta, brings Effie inside and is very nice to her. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RACHELE ANDRIOLI-GlobalFEST Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #135/153 (January 13, 2021).

Rachele AndrioliGlobalFEST 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 artist of the third night is Rachele Andrioli from Italy.  She is (almost) a one-woman band and makes amazing music with her voice and a loop pedal.

Recording from southern Italy, Rachele Andrioli’s performance highlights her mix of old and new, of traditional music and modern technology. Her trance vocals and loop pedals create a sound all her own, mixing music from Italian, Indian, Lebanese, Albanian and Romani cultures and traditions.

She plays three songs.  For the first, “Te Spettu” (“I Respect You”) she loops a jaw harp (who would have thought that that could be the basis for a song).  Then she loops her voice crooning.  She picks up a hand drum that looks like a tambourine (and gets an amazingly robust sound from it).  Her vocal style feels Middle Eastern.  It’s a really impressive piece of music.

“Pranvera Filloi Me Ardh” (“Spring Started with the Coming”) is in Albanian.  As the song starts, her accompanists come out.  Redi Hasa picks up a cello and plays a harmonic note (looped) followed by a gentle plucked melody.  Then Rocco Negro plays the accordion.  The mournful accordion solo sounds very Italian.  Hasa plays a mournful melody and she sings gently with them both.

The men leave and it’s just her for  “Ederlezi.”   She loops her voice singing a single note and then accompaniments herself including a distortion on her voice making it a very deep harmony.  She plays another small hand drum which gets an amazing sound.

This is a wonderfully unique set that I really enjoyed.

[READ: January 22, 2021] Snapdragon

For a while, I was reading every single First Second book that was published.  Once the pandemic hit, I fell behind and have not really been able to catch up just yet.  But S. brought this book home and I thought it looked interesting even before I saw that it was from First Second.

The cover is a little disconcerting.  Snapdragon, the girl in the picture, has hair up in pig tails.  But with a ghostly deer behind her, the way her har is drawn, it almost looks like some kind of antler (probably not intended).  But there’s a lot of things that are confusing in this story at first (and even second and third) glance.  I assume that these other decisions are deliberate.

Many of the characters in this story are African-American, including Snapdragon.  But her skin coloring is very different from all of the other characters.  I don’t think it matters for the story, whether she is or not (until the very end anyhow).  But it was very nice to see so many characters of color in the book.  In a strangely similar way, a main character, Jacks, I was sure was a man, but indeed, she is not.  Snap recognizes her as a woman right away, but I wasn’t sure if that made a difference either.  In fact, Jacks’ masculine appearance is important in the story, but I’m not sure if the reader is supposed to think that Jacks is a man as well?

None of that matters, of course, because once you learn the reality, you can just move on.

So just what the heck is this story about?

Snapdragon is a girl (all the women in her family are named after flowers).  She’s a little odd and the other kids are happy to let her know that.  The only kid who is nice to her is her neighbor Louis.  Louis thinks Snap is weird, but Louis is also pretty unconventional. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BORIS-Vein (2006/2013).

Boris continues to reissue their back catalog in streaming format.  Which is pretty amazing since so much of their work is so hard to find.  Possibly not great for collectors, but great for those of us who actually want to hear the music.

Vein is Boris’ thirteenth album.  Because they are Boris, the released two different albums under the same title in 2006.  The packaging was identical on both records and the only way to tell them apart was to check out the surface of the vinyl itself.

The “Hardcore version” had punk, hardcore, and drone.with vocals that are screamed rather than sung.  The  “Noise version” had drone and noise music as well as punk. This version of the album does not include any vocals.

In 2013, the band announced that the album would be released as a 2-CD set not as a reissue, but rather a re-arrangement of both albums combined.

Given all of this, it’s not even entirely clear to me what has been released her on bandcamp.  But it seems like the first two tracks (here labeled “v” and “e” are the hardcore version.  The third and fourth tracks “i” and “n” are a little harder to place.

“v” is 14 minutes long, broken up into several small pieces:

It starts with a wall of noise–static and low feedback swirling and manipulated until 4.01 when it segues into segues into ringing bells and effects that sound like a jet taking off and broken glass swirling and zipping around.   Then some drums and chords are introduced.   At 6:15, there’s a samples from the 1979 film Stalker, by Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky. A man says “И пусть посмеются над своими страстями” (Russian for “Let them laugh at their own passions”) followed by a blistering hardcore song  until 7:52.  After an abrupt halt comes the next screaming hardcore song which is more fuzz than chords with screams and feedback which at 9:06 segues into another super fast song which is distinguished from the others because of a riff where the chords go up and up higher and higher and faster as if they are going to explode, although it rumbles unto feedback at around 10:24 when a new tone of fuzzy nose feedback and a much slower introductory opens before before the pummeling hardcore resumes until 12:03.  This first song ends with a moment of silence and then a woman saying “unpleasant dreams” before a Wata fast high note solo is balanced by slow pummeling chords and drums and cymbals. After a minute or so, the hardcore returns this time with a solo all over the top of the song.  The song ends with a humming and what sounds like car keys jingling

“e” is over 15 minutes long and is one third hardcore punk and two thirds slow lengthy drone.  It starts with an Atsuo scream and hardcore drums. There’s a blistering hardcore song–fast riffage and screamed lyrics (which I assume are in Japanese).  Although the hardcore songs sound similar (and are unnamed) the riffs are distinctive enough to tell them apart.  Some backwards masked sounds come in at 1:05 and a similar riff at 1:15.  I have never seen them play this kind of set–it must be exhausting.  At 2.01 a loud bass comes in with a lot of cymbals and the song is buried under a blanket of distortion.  two minute song starts with.  At 3:04 a buzzsaw sound and a cool riff is coupled with some intense screaming.  At 4:45 it morphs into feedback that contains another sample from an Andrei Tarkovsky film, this time the 1986 film, The Sacrifice.  A man say “I hela mitt liv har jag väntat på det här. Hela mitt liv har varit en enda väntan på det här.” (Swedish for “All my life I’ve been waiting for this. My whole life has been a long wait for this.”)  The rest of the song feels like it might stay a lengthy drone, but at 5:46 after some cracks of the snare, a slow powerful Boris riff emerges.  But the riff dies away for some slow Wata soloing over droning chords.

Track 3 is probably the “noise version” (which is 17 minutes long) or the 2013 re-release (which is 17:25) but this track is 18:04.  Of course, if the “noise” version has no vocals, it can’t be this because it does have vocals.

It opens with a similar kind of noise that opens “v” but more staticky and with distant riffing going on.  At 1:58 a riff comes in.  The songs are like “v.”  A shorter version of the jet sounds are followed by some slow heavy chords.   At 3.22 there’s some chirping feedback that introduces the first hardcore song in “v.”  At 5.22 [#4 above] segues into a scream-filled hardcore song followed at 6:14 by the riff that goes higher and higher.  At 7:36, there’s slow thumping with noise and feedback (this might be new and not on “v”) then a sudden drop off of sound and near silence before the screeching feedback that starts at 8:39 with a blistering hardcore song that sounds unlike anything before. There’s heavy fast riffing with a pause and a big scream before resuming.  At 11:50, warping sounds and a thundering drum compete with a really fast riff which sounds like the first part of “e.”  At 13:05 song 2 from “e” begins–short, fast and loud.  Then at 13:51 comes track 4 from “e” (there’s no track 3) with the buzzsaw opening. At 15.21 there’s some backwards recording which eventually becomes the guitar solo that ended “v,” although this time it’s just under 3 minutes long.

Track 4 is “n.”  Perhaps it’s the “noise version” as there are no words.    It’s 17:59 and is a noisy composition of drone and feedback.  There’s some heavy chords and some quieter moments.  The high soaring notes seem to fit in very nicely with the sludgy bottom parts.  About half way through it turns into a fast, heavy hardcoreish track with a lot of drums, but buried under a wall of feedback and distortion.

[READ: November 12, 2020] The Little Buddhist Monk

The Little Buddhist Monk (written 2005) has been bundled with The Proof (written 1989) into one book.  Both stories were translated by Nick Caistor.

The Little Buddhist Monk is an absolutely bizarre, borderline stream of consciousness story.  It jumps from topic to topic like a fever dream and resolves itself in an even more unexpected way.

The story opens with us meeting the little monk who would very much like to leave Korea (where he was born and where he studied). But he has no money and no reasonable expectation for ever emigrating.  

Then one day a French photographer, Napoleon Chirac, and his wife Jacqueline Bloodymary (!) happened in his path.  They were on vacation and spoke French to each other.  The monk knew French and joined in the conversation.  They were delighted to meet a fellow French speaker in such a foreign land.  He imagined that they could be his ticket out of Korea.  So he decided to help them throughout the day.

They talk a lot about art.  Napoleon photographs empty rooms with a 360 degree camera and then splices it together as one image.  He has traveled the world filming places and he is looking to do a Korean monastery.  What luck, the monk can take them to a good one. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: AILBHE REDDY-“Distrust” (2016).

I found this song from, of all things, a redbull website listing up and coming Irish bands.  It says that this song has been streamed over 3 million times.

This song opens with otherworldy “oohs” before a jagged, slapped guitar melody enters the song.  The guitar feels like it ends too abruptly.  It ‘s a very cool hook.  Especially for a song that is a total kiss-off song like this one.

Over the course of three and a half minutes more and more is added to the song–an insistent bass, drums, more backing vocals and even a violin.  But that persistent guitar runs through the whole song.  As does Ailbhe Reddy’s voice which is clean and piercing.  She speak-sings in the beginning, but when the chorus comes in, her voice is in full power. 

The song soars by the end, as does her voice.  

In the video, she stands absolutely still and strong as the room she is in falls apart around her.  

Reddy has a full album coming out next month. This song isn’t on it, but her new song “Looking Happy” is a real rocker (with a cool video). 

[READ: September 19, 2020] No Country for Old Gnomes

I really enjoyed the first book in the series–Kill the Farm Boy.  I was really looking forward to reading the continuing efforts of the heroes of Pell.

So I was a little surprised to learn that this book has almost nothing to do with the first one.  It’s set in the same place (with the same map up front) and the world remains the same, but this book follows the exploits of a completely different band of accidental warriors. 

That was a little disappointing at first (I miss Fia and Agrabella) but Dawson & Hearne have created a brand new band of travelers who are just as interesting and compelling as the first bunch. All of the characters from the first book make cameos, but they are brief.  The only characters from the first book that have any regular work are King Gustave and Grinda the Sand Witch.

But this book is exciting and funny and in the same vein as the first while being very different as well.  It is full of puns and jokes and twists on fantasy novels all while fleshing out the world that was created in book one (and making great use of the map that’s on the first page).

The book opens with three witches (not Grinda) and a cauldron.  I love a spoof of this scene and this one is especially good.  Two of the witches are casting a spell to help the Bruding Boars win their jousting competition.  But they needed a third so they put an ad on Ye Olde Meet-Up Bulletin Boarde. This third with (who looked quite different from her picture) had a very different spell in mind.

The third witch disappeared after casting a spell full of blood and seeming to be against gnomes.  But, really, who cared about gnomes.

Neither noticed the surfeit of portent in the air, wafting from the coppery-smelling cave, probably because the second witch smelled so strongly of cat urine.
But the portent was there nonetheless.

The book shifts to the Numminen family of gnomes.  Gnomes are generally smöl (ha!) and cheerful. The two sons Onni and Offi are fighting about Offi’s lack of gnomeric behavior.  Offi likes wearing cardigans that are black and covered in bats (gnome cardigans should be bright and cheerful).  So, yes, Offi is a goth gnome.  Whereas Onni is a perfect gnome who wins award for his gnomeric behavior. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: COURTNEY MARIE ANDREWS-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #68 (August 20, 2020).

Courtney Marie Andrews annoys me because she is not Courtney Barnett.  So whenever a DJ says Courtney, I hope it’s Barnett.  Sometimes it is and sometimes it’s this country singer.

Courtney Marie Andrews seems like a nice enough person but her music is on the wrong side of country for me.

She opens this set with “Burlap String.”  Paul Defiglia plays upright bass and Mat Davidson (aka Twain) adds pedal steel.  In this song

Andrews sings about the fear of love. “I’ve grown cautious, I’ve grown up / I’m a skeptic of love / Don’t wanna lose what I might find.” Yet, “Burlap String” is also a song about how love’s memory lingers, and how the mind rekindles its beauty.

Defiglia leaves after the song.

The blurb says that Andrews is only 29 and she’s been playing for ten years.  She has a new album and WXPN has been playing “It Must Be Someone Else’s Fault” a bunch.  It’s a bouncy song that seems to be full of sadness.

For “If I Told,” which she calls a modern day love song, Davidson switches to the Wurlizer.  Andrews sings a bit of yodel in the chorus.  It’s a catchy moment.

The set ends with Courtney alone at the Wurlitzer, singing “Ships in the Night” the final song on her seventh album, Old Flowers.  It is about lost love and hoping for closure with fondness.

Courtney Marie’s voice is powerful but it’s not my thing.

[READ: August 1, 2020] Kill the Farm Boy

I saw a review for the second book in this series (which has just come out) and it sounded pretty great.  So I looked up the first one only to find out that Dawson and Hearne are both authors with other series to their names.  Dawson has written The Shadow Series (as Lila Bowen), The Hit Series and The Blud Series.  Meanwhile, Hearne has written The Iron Druid Series and Oberon’s Meaty Mysteries.  They’ve also written single volumes of things too.  So they are well known in the fantasy realm.

The acknowledgments say that they met up in the Dallas Fort Worth airport at the barbecue joint (I have eaten there and it was tremendous).  They waited for their flight and discussed killing the farm boy, or in other words, making fun of white male power fantasies that usually involve a kid in a rural area rising to power in the empire after he loses his parents.  They found that skewering topics was fun and decided to write the book together.

So in the land of Pell we meet a farm boy named Worstley.  He cleaned up the goats.  And one goat, Gus, was especially ornery.  One night while Worstley was mucking out the area, a fairy entered the room.  She was haggard and dressed crazily with one sock on and her pants falling off. But the fairly quickly corrected any thoughts about her being a proper fairy by saying she was a pixie and her name was Staph.  She was there to anoint the chosen One.

To prove her magic she pointed at Gus and magicked him into talking.  The first thing Gus said was that his name was Gustave and he called Worstley “Pooboy.” (more…)

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okSOUNDTRACK: PJ-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #33 (June 12, 2020).

pjI understand that coming up with a stage name has to be tough, but there’s too many artists who try to go by one name when t hat name isn’t unique enough.  I mean, the rapper Dave?  C’mon.  PJ is another one.  That is such a common nickname there’s really no way you can claim it.

However PJ (whose real name is Paris Jones) has apparently made a name for herself.  Usher, Wiz Khalifa and more.  These songs come from her debut EP–I’m fascinated by the people who write hits and then eventually decide to sing.  Why did they give their songs away instead of singing them?  Is it a good way to establish your cred and make some money?  Probably.

Anyhow, I expected these songs to be much more pop-friendly and hook-filled.  Rather, they are pretty songs and PJ’s voice is really nice as well, but they aren’t earworms.

Backed by Drin Elliot on the keys, the Los Angeles-based North Carolina native breezes through two tracks off of her new EP, Waiting on Paris, from quarantine digs complete with mannequins, floral arrangements and radiant artwork.

I like the sound that Elliott gets from the simple setup (but I guess you can program synths to do a ton of stuff at the press of a button).

PJ is now the third singer in a row to have a song on the soundtrack for HBO’s Insecure.  I am now really surprised that I haven’t heard of it, even in ads.

For the final song and with the biggest grin on her face she “switches vibes” with the upbeat and anthemic “Element,” from this season of HBO’s Insecure. Here, her energy is nearly impossible to harness as she exclaims “quarantined but in my element!”

Strangely, I don’t find this song all that anthemic.  It’s kind of catchy, but then I haven’t found any of the Insecure songs to be all that super catchy.  Maybe it’s an understated soundtrack.

[READ: June 19, 2020] The Okay Witch

This graphic novel was wonderful.

Set in Founder’s Bluff, Massachusetts, this story is about witches (duh).  But there’s a fun twist with a mother-daughter/generational issue that definitely goes beyond witchcraft.

Middle schooler Moth (no explanation given for the name) lives with her mom, Calendula.  They own a second hand shop that was once owned by a nice old Jewish man named Joe Laslo.  (The Jewish part is relevant only because of what happens later–it’s funny).

As the story opens we learn that Founder’s Bluff has a long, beloved history of witch persecution.  Judge Nathaniel Kramer made the witches leave the town.  In 1692, women were accused of bewitching Kramer’s son Peter, and they all “disappeared,” taking Peter with them.  Kramers have been in charge ever since (the Mayor is a descendant). (more…)

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516ZKjM2CqL._SX351_BO1,204,203,200_ (1) SOUNDTRACK: ELISAPIE-Tiny Desk Concert #948 (February 20, 2020).

downloadElisapie (I have no idea how to pronounce that) is a First Nations singer from Salluit, on the Northern tip of Quebec.

She sings in Inuktitut (as well as in English and French).  And her voice is absolutely intense.

Her songs are very personal–she sings of

her life as an adopted child and of meeting her biological mother. Now, as a mother herself, she sings about what it must have meant to her own mother to give up her child.

Elisapie left her birth-village, Salluit, as a teenager and headed to Montreal, leaving her community and her sick mom. The songs she sings, here all come from her album, The Ballad of the Runaway Girl and deal with the consequences of her leaving.

These songs are definitely rock, but with a different overall sound.  Jason Sharp’s bass saxophone is fantastic–creating deep low rumbles and otherworldly squawks.

“Arnaq” opens with some chugging guitar riffs (I can’t tell if the guitar is acoustic or electric) from Joe Grass and after a verse or so, some great noisy electric guitars from Josh Toal, who punctuates the song with little solos.  There’s no bass guitar because the bass saxophone covers all of the low ends.

The song, even though it is in Inuktitut is rally catchy with a chorus of “ahhhhhh, I, yi, I” (or something).

The middle section is full of great noises as both guitars and the sax all play some wild solos.

All of this is held together by “the tasteful drumming of Evan Tighe.”

She says the second song, “Una” is the most painful yet the most freeing song.  It is  written to her biological mother.  In Inuktitut the word for mother means “our little bag” because they carried us.

It opens with slow staccato guitar chords and a near a capella vocal before the quiet electric guitar from Josh Toal joins in.  The spareness of the beginning of this song is a great counterpoint to the end of the song when everyone joins in–vocals, guitars, sax and some complex drumming.

Before the final song, she looks around and smiles and says Lizzo was here!  My daughter is very excited.

The final song “Darkness Bring The Light” opens with some great weird sounds from everyone.  Tighe makes scraping metallic sounds as he slides his drum sticks around the cymbals.  Toal plays a synth intro as Grass bows his guitar and Sharp makes waves of gentle sounds to underpin the melody

This one is in English.  She sings a melody that rides over the sounds.  After 2 minutes the drums kick in and after a run through of the chorus, the guitarists join in

Bob Boilen concludes

This is an extraordinary Tiny Desk from an artist with something meaningful to say.

He is absolutely correct.  This set is fantastic.

[READ: March 10, 2020] Gunnerkrigg Court 4 [32-41]

I really enjoyed the first three books of this series and then promptly forgot about it.  I happened to see this book at the library and was excited to see that I hadn’t read it.  Can it really have been three years since I last read about these characters?

Being away for so long made some of this a little confusing.  I will have to read the whole story again some time.

Chapter 32 shows Antimony returning from the forest and there is a warm welcome with Renard. But Katarina’s welcome is cool–“you kinda make it hard to be your friend.” Antimony tries very hard to make Kat like her again…too hard.  She creates scary situations in which she can “save” Kat,  It doesn’t exactly work, although Kat isn’t really mad anymore, just annoyed.  But then a gigantic creepy monster thing comes out of the water.  Kat is impressed by Annie’s conjuring until Annie says she didn’t do it.  They run out.

Only to learn that this is Lindsey–the creature who helped design most of everything at the court–a giant crablike creature.

All this time Kat has been working on the idea of growing a robot.  Well, not exactly, but kind of.  She imagines using a muscular frame to build a robot body around.  Or something.  She is able to use the smarts of one of the existing robots to give her a hand.  The code they provide is actually a small white cube with no writing on it.  Amazingly Kat is able to read parts of it. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RAPHAEL SAADIQ-Tiny Desk Concert #920/Tiny Desk Fest October 31, 2019 (December 5, 2019).

This Tiny Desk concert was part of Tiny Desk Fest, a four-night series of extended concerts performed in front of a live audience and streamed live on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.

Back in October, NPR allowed fans to come watch some Tiny Desk Concerts live.  October 31st was R&B night featuring Raphael Saadiq.

Saadiq did a Tiny Desk Concert in 2009 and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it.  It was a stripped down show–more acoustic than R&B and I was really impressed with his guitarist Rob Bacon.  I either forgot or didn’t know that he “lit the fuse for soul’s popular revival as the lead for Tony! Toni! Tone!”

Well, Bacon is still with him and he is the highlight of this set for me.

This was  the final Tiny Desk Fest show and it runs just over 30 minutes, with Saadiq playing seven songs.

“I’m Feeling Love” is slow and sexy with some quiet wah wah (from Bacon and Saadiq) guitar running through it.  I rather enjoyed this part

I live my life like Willy Wonka
It’s that TV Edith Bunker
Uncle Fred and Jimmy Walker
George Jefferson had that walk

After this first song Saadiq brings out a special person.  After a big introduction it turns out to be Lucky Daye (whom I’ve never heard of) although the blurb says he is a “rising soul singer and songwriter.”

They sing Saadiq’s song “Be Here.”  I liked Saadiq’s voice last time but I found Lucky Daye’s voice to be way too poppy for my taste.  But this song features some funky slap bass DaQuantae “Q” Johnson and cool synths from Daniel Crawford.  Without question, though, the highlight is Rob Bacon’s ripping guitar solo.

Up next is my favorite song of the set.  It’s called “This World Is Drunk” (and the people are mad).  It is slow and pretty, with thoughtful lyrics.  I like the story telling better than the macking.

Lucky Daye comes back out and they’re going to do two of his songs. He says he wants to sing “Call,” but Saadiq says No, let’s do “Love You Too Much” first.  Daye sings and I really don’t think much of this R&B ballad.

I like “Call” better because Bacon switches to acoustic guitar and there some nice percussion (rim shots) from Alvin Ford.  I feel like this song is a bit less poppy and more interesting.

Before the last song Saadiq jokes about when he played there ten years ago: “it was really a tiny desk.”

“And honestly we were kinda complaining about it,” Saadiq laughs, recalling that performance in 2009, back when hosting intimate little concerts behind Bob Boilen’s desk was still a fledgling idea at NPR Music. “Like, we kinda didn’t wanna do it,” he admits in hindsight. It wasn’t until the video-taped version of his set hit the Internet and began picking up views that the lightbulb went off for Saadiq, too. “It’s like probably the biggest streaming I ever had, so it’s kinda good to be back — not kinda good; it’s really good to be back.”

The final song, “Still Ray” was inspired by southern marching bands… black colleges.  I didn’t go to one of those and my school did not have a marching band.  But one day I was gonna put a tuba in my song and it was gonna be the main thing in the song.  They asked where the hook?  The hook is the tuba!

Brent Gossett comes out (technically with a sousaphone) and I really like this song a lot.  He’s right, the tuba is the hook.  Near the end of the song he cuts out the music:  Just me and the tuba.  I’ve been waiting for this my whole life!

I still prefer his 2009 set, but there’s no denying Saadiq’s charisma.

[READ: March 1, 2020] “Spellbound”

This is an excerpt from the novel Hurricane Season translated by Sophie Hughes.

This except opens with an estate, agent saying that the woman never really died, even though her body was found in the irrigation cancel. They say she changed shape as she was being stabbed.  Perhaps she was a bunny or a lizard or bird.

But once her body was found people were quick to break into her house to see if they could find treasure.

The say Rigorito and his men broke down walls and dug up the floors. They even broke down the door of the Old Witch in the back of the room–where the Old Witch’s mummy lay preserved.  The mummy crumbled in front of them and those men fled town never to return.

That’s what some people say. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RISING APPALACHIA-Tiny Desk Concert #940 (January 31, 2020).

I feel like I have heard of Rising Appalachia, but I’m not sure that I have.  If I had, I certainly didn’t know anything by them.  But I think I had a pretty safe guess.

Rising Appalachia’s Tiny Desk Concert is charged with the roots music that sisters Leah Song and Chloe Smith learned in fiddle camps as kids. Growing up in urban Atlanta and beyond, they also heard rhythms from a wider world, and their music grew to reflect new sounds and their activism. When they came to NPR, their van was packed with a bodhrán (Irish drum), an ngoni (West African harp) a huge gourd, a cello, a baritone guitar and more, including the other musicians who make up this wandering, Atlanta-based band: David Brown, Biko Casini, Arouna Diarra and Duncan Wickel.

And so, with this band you get traditional-sounding folk music but with world music instruments and influences.  It melds beautiful.  And their lyrics are great, too.

“Resilient” starts the set with just the two of them.  Chloe Smith is on banjo while Leah Song is on bodhrán.  Their voices are great together as they sing a fantastic protest song. There’s so many great lyrics to choose from, but I’ll pick just this one

My voice feels tiny I’m sure so does yours / put em all together make a mighty roar.

There’s also a really catchy “who ho ho” in the chorus, which is a fun treat.

After the song, Leah says they are reviving the voice of the people.  Then, introducing the next song, “Medicine”  she says this is for all of our ancestors and all the medicine keepers.

Chloe switches to acoustic guitar.  The song begins with a a bowed, then plucked cello from Duncan Wickel.  Biko Casini plays a high hat with a big circular gourd for a bass and percussive sound.

There’s a very nice bowed cello solo.  Leah sings lead and Chloe adds some terrific harmonies.  Midway through the song you can really hear Arouna Diarra on the ngoni, playing some high notes, but it’s his solo at the end of the song that is so cool.  I’m fascinated by this instrument.

Before the final song, they joke that they wanted Leah to jump on the desk and that they might crowd surf.

Leah says she was going to shave I Love Bob Boilen into her hair.  Or maybe NPR, but if you mess that up it could just go wrong.

They end the set with a song Leah and Chloe “learned from our mama, an old boot-stompin’ Appalachian folk tune” called “Cuckoo.”  They aim to bring old music into a new format.

“Cuckoo” is a song I know from Kristin Hersh and, coincidentally, she played it when I saw her recently.

For this song, Leah plays the banjo and Chloe plays the violin (as does Duncan Wickel).   Their take is rather different from Kristin’s–not in the melody or lyrics but the way they sing the words.  Kristin has a very different vocal style.

The end features a njongi solo along with the baritone guitar solo from David Brown followed by a fiddle solo

And after a minute or so of soloing there’s split second pause before everyone rocks out a bit.  You can really hear the baritone guitar and its bass notes here.

I really enjoyed this set and I’m very curious about this band.

[READ: February 20, 2020] Princeless: Raven Book 2

Book One of this series was pretty intense.  And book two doesn’t really let up.

Well, the first chapter lets up some as we meet the crew and the women get used to the ship.  There are some rope climbing contests, everyone also wants to take a turn steering.  And Ximena and Raven are arguing already.

It’s a cool way to meet some of the new cast.  Dezzy would rather sunbathe than work.  Helena is very strong, Cid is deaf–which we find out because Jayla is yelling at her (to no avail obviously) and is getting frustrated and petulant–she’s a terrible character.  And powerful Sunshine is incredibly seasick.

Then they get into some sword practice. Raven addresses her crew calling them bilge rats. But Katie interrupts, “The insulting thing, is that something we have to do?”

Raven says she never thought of it.  That’s just how pirates speak. But Raven decides the ship will be a democracy (except in battle when her word is law).  She asks who finds insults to be a motivator?  No one raises her hand.  Raven hereby abolishes “name-calling, back-biting, under-cutting, insulting and sarcastic undermining” from her ship. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KIKAGAKU MOYO-“Gypsy Davey”/”Mushi No Uta” (2020).

Japanese psych rock band Kikagaku Moyo (who are amazing live) were picked for the new Sub Pop 7″ singles cub release.  I’m not part of that club, but the tracks are available to stream.  Here’s what the band says:

This is a limited release as a part of the Sub Pop Singles Club Vol. 4, and physical copies will only be available to subscribers of the series. As such, it won’t be available at our shows or in stores…but you can listen now on streaming sites.

The first song, “Gypsy Davey,” is a reworking of the traditional British folk song by the same name. We referenced Sandy Denny’s arrangement from the 1971 album Fotheringay for our performance.  We recorded the track in London with guest vocalist Kandice Holmes, aka Bells @be__lls.

The second song, “Mushi No Uta,” was written by Tomo and Go and recorded last summer in their living room.

Both of these were recorded in brief windows during our touring in 2019. We are very happy with opportunity hope you enjoy the songs.

I love the way they have taken this old English folk song “Gypsy Davey” and added some great psychedelic elements.  First off it starts with drums and some very cool sitar work.  The guitars are slow and echoing.  Then after the first verse, the full band joins in with a slow 70’s sounding folk rock (with electric guitars) song.  By the third verses, the two guitars are doing different things and it all works together very nicely.

I had never heard of Kandic Holmes (aka Bells) but her voice is perfect, sounding old school and like she has heard this song a million times and can’t wait to sing it again.

The middle of the song has a wonderful, slow sitar solo.  I love that they have taken folk and made it international folk.

“Mushi No Uta” is a slow ballad. It does sound a bit like a home made recording (or else it is recorded deliberately close-sounding).  The vocals are whispered and the guitars intertwine nicely.  After a minute and a half, expansive, echoing guitar chords come rumbling through totally changing the atmosphere.  The second guitar plays some wild lines.  After about a minute, it all fades out and the original sound returns–gentle folk acoustic guitar and falsetto vocals.

It’s a nice single and shows a different side of the band.

[READ: February 20, 2020] Princeless: Raven Book 1

I really enjoyed Book 3 of the Princeless series in which Adrienne encountered Raven locked up in a castle.

I thought Raven was a pretty awesome character and I was really happy to see that Jeremy Whitley had created a series just for her.

This series is a lot less light-hearted than the Princeless series and definitely skews a bit older than Princeless.  It’s also not quite as funny (by design, I assume).  However, it features a wonderfully diverse crew of women and all of the great feminism that Princeless is known for.

As this book opens, we see Raven’s father showing her how to shoot an arrow–how she came to be known as Black Arrow and how fearsome she was even as a child.

The story of the excitement she had as a child on her father’s ship is contrasted to the drudgery of the present–fixing up the ship that she has commandeered from her brother’s mates.  She realizes that if she is going to get revenge on her brothers for locking her up, she needs a crew.  So she heads into town where she bumps into (literally) a woman who barely speaks English and is down on her luck.  She says she ate today, but has no money left.  Raven gives her some coins and the woman replies, “You give me to have these?”  She gives Raven a huge kiss and walks off.  That’s when Raven realizes the woman stole her purse.

The rest of the chapter shows some excellently drawn chase scenes from Rosy Higgins and Ted Brandt in which the thief (who we will learn is a half-Elf named Sunshine) is impressed by Raven’s tenacity and in which Raven is impressed by Sunshine’s physical abilities.  Sunshine runs into a bar and as Raven is about to tackle her, the bar owner points a crossbow at her. (more…)

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