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Archive for the ‘Yuck!’ Category

SOUNDTRACKSHELLEY [fka D.R.A.M.]-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #198 (April 26, 2021).

I’m always puzzled by the FKA in a singer’s name.  Is it part of the singer’s name? Is this singer’s official name Shelley FKA D.R.A.M.?  I don’t think so, I think it’s just for us to know who Shelley used to be.

When D.R.A.M. played the Tiny Desk back in 2017, he made a couple of things clear to us: His playfully dynamic personality was primed for the spotlight, and beneath the catchy hooks, there’s a real singer waiting to come out. For his Tiny Desk (home) concert, he does a complete 180. “It’s like a new beginning. Full circle. So this time, call me Shelley.” he says, following the opening track, “Exposure.” Everything is new. Silk pajamas and slippers replace the trench coat and plush beanie, and thanks to lifestyle changes, he’s slimmed down quite a bit and goes by his government name now: Shelley.

I enjoyed D.R.A.M and his vulgar silliness.  But Shelley is one of those singers who intends to hit every note every time he holds a long note.  He whines up and down the octaves constantly and I hate it.  I know that there are listeners who love this as the blurb admires

The shift from lighthearted melodic hip-hop to full-on R&B crooner shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s seen him perform live. It feels like it’s his way of saying, “Now that I have your attention, allow me to introduce myself.” We still get glimpses of the “Big Baby” here and there — the charm, a little bit of silliness, and the million-dollar grin — but other than that, it’s grown folks business and vocally flawless performance.

For the Shelley Show, he gathers a groovy band in front of a massive bookshelf and runs through selections, including the premiere of “Rich & Famous” from his upcoming self-titled project, due out on April 29, his late mother’s birthday. If D.R.A.M. was the ploy to break into the music industry, then Shelley is the longevity play.

“Exposure” and “The Lay Down” really accentuate his new vocal style.  But I liked the music of “Cooking With Grease.”  The simple drum beat from Keith “KJ” Glover and then the live viola from Yuli (a highlight throughout).  Sensei Bueno follows the melody on guitar and the song grows from there.

Of the four songs, I liked “Rich & Famous” best.  Trey Mitchell plays a grooving bass line, the backing singers Crystal Carr and David Fuller are ah ha-ing.  Sensei Bueno is wah wahing the  guitar and SlimWav is floating the keys around.  Shelley’s voice stayed low and less whiny.  Is he really going to try to make it with the name Shelley?

[READ: May 10, 2021]  “The Way We Are”

Reading this essay in 2021 was a really uncomfortable experience.  David Sedaris is not afraid of saying a risqué thing or three. But it’s amazing how much things seem to have changed in 13 years.

This essay begins in Normandy with David saying that the city shuts off the water without any warning.  Usually it’s a construction project or something.  It usually happens when David gets up around 10:30, which is practically the middle of the day for Hugh and the neighbors.

What they do at 6AM is anyone’s guess, I only know that they’re incredibly self righteous about it, and talk about the dawn as if it’s a personal reward bestowed on account of their great virtue.

The last time the water went off, David had a coffee problem. In order to think straight, he needed caffeine.  In order to make this happen he needed to think straight.  One time he made it with Perrier which sounds plausible but isn’t.  He tried leftover tea which might have worked if the tea weren’t green.  This time he decided to use the water in a vase of wildflowers that Hugh had picked. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: VOIVOD plays Nothingface (streamed May 31, 2021).

When I saw Voivod a few years ago, I was delighted with how good they sounded.  I only wished they’d played a few more songs from my favorite album of theirs, Nothingface.

Well, here it is, mid lockdown and the Voivod guys have answered my request.  They are going to play the entire Nothingface album live.

Over two days in May they recorded the entire album live–an album that all four of them had to learn all over again.  Some songs they had never played live.  And, of course two of the guys were not in the ban when Nothingface came out.   Indeed, bassist Rocky was only 15 and guitarist Chewy was only 13 when the album was released.  [It’s not that weird, singer Snake was about 25 at the time].

It could have been a disaster (but they wouldn’t have aired it, I’m sure).  But if you’re going to replace a unique composer like Piggy, who better to use than the kid who has been a fan of Piggy since he was 13?  Chewy gets Piggy and has even written tab books for all of Voivod’s albums–showing all of the complex and bizarre stuff that Piggy created.  Rocky actually acknowledged Chewy’s books as what helped him to learn the songs (even though he played the album every day for a year when it came out).

They did not play this in front of people.  Rather, they played in a studio.  But director Catherine Deslauriers designed the studio to project images behind the band as they played. It doesn’t feel quite like a Voivod show since they interact with the audience so much, but it feels very live.

From the opening chord of “The Unknown Knows,” this show was amazing.  The sound was fantastic–I was especially impressed with how great the drums sounded.  I don’t think I ever realized what a beast Away was on the kit.  Rocky’s bass sounded awesome and Chewy’s guitar parts were spot on.  Snake’s vocals sound pretty good too considering he’s thirty years older.  His voice is unique in metal–that thick accent and slight growl–and it’s all in place.  When Chewy hit that screaming bent note and the song paused then jumped into the next part, it was magical.  And when Chewy played those crazy chords in the section after it I knew the whole thing would be great.  Oh, and Rocky’s bass sound during the end part was perfect.

The only thing was that they didn’t play the coda to the song, but really, that’s quite alright.  They had to move on to “Nothingface.”  The jump from the angular sharp parts to the catchy “lapse of time/syncho-freeze” is just so good.  An I really enjoyed watched Snake sing the “Cold cold choke cold” part.

Before “Astronomy Domine, there was a brief interview with Snake.  He talks about how he didn’t want to do a cover, especially someone as big a Pink Floyd.  He also jokes about how hard it was to learn the harmonies–it was like Spinal Tap. But Piggy knew what he was doing.

And the harmonies with the new guys sound perfect.  They had been playing this on the tour that I saw them, but my show was a little shorter because it was three bands so they didn’t play it.

It segues perfectly in the opening bass notes of “Missing Sequence.”  It’s a cool slow moody intro before snake shouts NOW!  The harmonies on this song are so good and the way it jumps from this chugging heavy part to the staccato “down down, far underground” is tremendous.  Away’s alternating double bass is a great component.  There’s another great place for Rocky’s bass to sound fantastic.

Rocky speaks before “X-Ray Mirror.”  He speaks only in French and talks about seeing the Nothingface tour when he was 15 and just loving it.  He even took a promotional poster and had Snake sign it years later when they met.

I love the jazzy riff in the middle of the song and the thrashing double bass drum–Away’s drumming is just outstanding in this song.  Followed by the resolutely King Crimson chords  and the great fast thrashing section with the funky bass line and the wild solo

“Inner Combustion” has a striking ascending guitar riff that leads to the heavier section of the song. The distinctive snare blasts between each verse is such a distinctive aspect.

Chewy interviews before “Pre-Ignition” and he talks about how the album was the soundtrack to his teenage years.  He was 13 for this, his first show.  He was shorter than everyone but pushed forward and stood by the speakers until he got pushed back by the mosh pit.  he also mentions a launch party that aired on Solidrock.

Chewy studied contemporary composers in a course.  He was listening to a song and said “woah Stravinsky stole something from Voivod.”  Strange chords and time changes.  There’s even middle eastern harmonic minors.   Those orchestral guitar parts are so cool and very dramatic.  There’s really harsh chords and Away going nuts on the drums.   I always like the vaguely Middle Eastern part “ground and rock and sand come crumbling tumbling down.”

Away introduces “Into My Hypercube.”  He says whenever we go on tour I like to buy scientific magazines to read on the road.  In the 80s it was Omni and Discover.  He came upon an article about scientists representing visually a cube in 9 dimensions.  He and Snake had a chat trying to imagine living in a hypercube in a 9 dimensional building and he wrote these lyrics.

Away says that this song reminds him of “Remember Tomorrow” from Iron Maiden–his favorite metal album.

You can hear that in the slow echoing bass opening.   I love the way it goes angular and harsh and segues perfectly into the more catchy mosh part followed by a really heavy pounding section before a ripping guitar solo.  And once again Rocky’s great bass sound ends the song.

The show ends with “Sub-Effect” a song that builds dramatically into a pounding bridge and has a complicated riff that jumps into the “too late for SOS” funky bass and unusual guitar melody.  The show fades to black on yet another of Piggy’s bizarre but wonderful chords.

In a couple of weeks they are playing all of Dimension Hatross, and album I don’t know as well.  Bu I have time to learn it.

[READ: May 30, 2021] Redfork

I had just read a couple of violent and bloody graphic novels when I picked up this one.  The cover alone is pretty gruesome.  And I thought, what is it with stories that need to be so gory?  I don’t have an answer for that.

Then the story opens on a couple of hicks trying to steal drugs from the doctor’s office.  I have little time for stories of meth addicts, so that combined with the gore, meant that this story had a long way to go to engage me.

And yet it did.

Because it went places I never would have expected.

When the two boys were stealing drugs, the doctor walked in on them and one of the boys got scared and killed him.  The story jumps to six years later when Noah is getting out of prison.  He is huge–been working out the whole time, clearly.  His best friend D-Ray is there to pick him up.

I don’t know who storyboarded this book.  Maybe it artist Nil Vendrell, but he did some really cool things.  I love on one of the early pages as they are driving back home, the car stays in the middle of the frame but the scenes change around it and in the white borders there’s random townsfolk–showing everything Noah sees.  It’s very effective.

As is a later page that runs clockwise–counter to all graphic novel reading.  But it’s done with such a great purpose and effectively conveys a moment of two people at a distance from each other. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ACID MOTHERS TEMPLE & THE MELTING PARAISO U.F.O.-The Ripper at the Heaven’s Gates of Dark (2011).

I’m not sure why this era of AMT seems so readily available on CD, but this is another collection of songs from the lineup of Tsuyama Atsushi – monster bass, voice, soprano sax, cimpo flute, soprano recorder, acoustic guitar, cosmic joker Higashi Hiroshi – synthesizer, dancin’king Shimura Koji – drums, latino cool Kawabata Makoto – electric guitar, electric bouzouki, sitar, organ, percussion, electronics, speed guru.

It has 5 songs and comes in at just around 75 minutes.

The album titles tend to be amusing twists on classic rock albums (The Piper at the Gates of Dawn), but usually the music doesn’t sound all that classic rock.  But on this album, they changed that.

“Chinese Flying Saucer” is 12 minutes long and opens with a kind of siren sound going high then low and then a big old guitar riff launches.   It feels like a classic rock riff, but it is original.  When Tsuyama starts singing, the whole thing comes together like a Led Zeppelin tribute.  The riff is classic Zep the vocals (indecipherable as they are) are tally Robert Plant–echoed and high pitched with lots of moaning. There’s even a “Kashmir”-like riff in the middle.  It’s remarkably fun and really accessible.  The big non-Zeppelin moment comes with Kawabata’s solo which is just insanity.

After about four minutes the song shifts gears and takes off for outer space with rumbling bass and soaring keys.  They jam for about five minutes and then return to the initial riff to end the song.

“Chakra 24” is only four minutes long and is a slower sitar based song with raspy vocals.  It’s quite pretty.

But the brevity is soon gone with the fifteen minute “Back Door Man Of Ghost Rails Inn.”  It’s a slow droney song with sitar and lots of keys.  This time when Tsuyama starts singing it’s in a very Jim Morrison style–ponderous and over the top.  There’s even a spoken word part.  Imagine in Morrison’s voice “some people coming here… some people coming here and…” There’s some wild organ trippiness in this song that stretched in ways The Doors never did.

The cleverly titled “Shine on You Crazy Dynamite” is almost 22 minutes long and sounds like old school pink Floyd.  Not “Crazy Diamond” era, but earlier, more like “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun.”  Kawabata’s solos really shine on this one, with squeaky echoes and a metal bars slide up the neck.  The keyboards also sound like Richard Wright.   After 17 minute or so off wild guitar freak out, the guitar fades back a bit to let the pulsing bass take over with the echoing voices continuing to the end.

“Electric Death Mantra” is a twenty minute chill out.  It’s a slower piece with lots of high pitched spacey notes floating around, which Kawabata plays bouzouki and Tsuyama sigs (in his normal style).  With about eight minutes left things get really quiet with a quiet rumbling drums and echoed sounds and notes from the guitar while overdubbed vocals chant and chant.  Then it slowly starts to build up again, with faster and faster bouzouki and Kawabata’s wailing solo.

[READ: May 25, 2021] Rogue Planet

Oni Press was one of my favorite young imprints when I first started reading graphic novels.  Then I lost track of it.  So I was pleased to see this book from them.

I was a little turned off by it because it happened to be one of several books I brought home that just seemed to revel in blood and guts (was there a run on red ink recently?)

The book turned out to be (totally gross) interesting.  And I was pleased with the way it handled a somewhat complicated story in one volume.

The book opens on the rogue planet.  Life on the planet consists of a bunch of ET- looking creatures.  The older one speaks to its son, complimenting him on his intelligence before sacrificing him to the giant crystal that is growing out of the ground.  The giant crystal, which is covered in and surrounded by flesh and eyes and teeth and all kinds of gross stuff.  It’s really horrible-looking. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JAMES NEWMAN-“Embers” (England, Eurovision Entry 2021).

.Eurovision 2021 is over and the big news (aside from drug-taking accusations against the winner) is that the entry from England received zero.  Nul points.

This is not unique, but it’s not something that anybody wants.  It’s actually better to not make the finals than to make the finals and get nul points, because no one is going to forget that.

So just how bad was “embers?”

I’m not going to defend the song, because I would never listen to it on purpose–it’s not my thing.  But by the same token I can think of a lot of songs that are much worse than this.

This song is just kind of bland.  It thinks its big and catchy with the horns and the “light up the ROOM!” line.  But really it just doesn’t do much.  I could see this song playing in a club and people would dance to it and then forget it.  No one would ask who it was or request it again.

And maybe that’s worth nothing.

[READ: May 26, 2021] 52 Times Britain was a Bellend

Bellend is such a great insult and it is exclusive to Britain, which is a shame.

Also a shame is just how terrible Britain as a country has been throughout history.

Obviously any global superpower is going to be dickish–you get power by crushing others.  You could write this same book about the United States and cover just the last four years.

But Felton, whom I’ve never heard of before, but who is apparently a huge Twitter presence, narrowed history down to 52 (one a week) examples of Britain being absolutely horrible (and somehow managing to make it funny).

How did he decide on these events?  Well, they are judged by today’s standards (saying “I’m from the past” is no excuse).

What you’ll get here is a good overview of fun and horrifying times when we were cartoonishly evil, from a comedian just as appalled as you are about what shits it turned out we were in the past.

Most of the terrible behavior involves other countries.  Like starting wars with China because they wouldn’t buy British opium.  Or making Zanzibar pay for the bombs that Britain dropped on  them. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SAMANTHA TINA-“The Moon is Rising” (Latvia, Eurovision Entry 2021).

Eurovision 2021 has come and gone and of course I’ve got questions.

Even though I enjoy checking out Eurovision entries, I know very little about the Eurovision process.  I didn’t even know that there were countries that didn’t qualify for the final round.

So here is the entry from Latvia.  It scored the least amount of points of anyone and sits at the bottom of the list.

I’m not sure what could have happened to Samantha Tina to make her come in last place in this contest.  “The Moon is Rising: feels like pretty standard Eurovision fare.   True there’s not a lot to it, but I feel like the aggressive female empowerment of these lyrics should have won over lot of people over.  Or is that what killed her?

The song opens with some pulsing sounds then Samantha sings in a big powerful anthemic voice.  It’s a soaring operatic opening.  She kind of raps, but in a singing sort of way.

When I walk in like this
With an attitude
You should know that
I’m coming after you
You can run, you can hide
But you’re mesmerized
In your mind I am
Already idolized

A thumping bass introduces the next verse

My rules, your rules
I’m a woman, I’m a ruler
My rules, your rules
I’m accepting only true love
My rules, your rules
I’m a woman, I’m a ruler
You got something to say
Say it to my face

Then the third part with deep bass y synths and a chanted chorus of

Pa-ra-ra
Pa-ra-ra
Pa-ra-ra-pa
Pa-ra-ra-pa pa-rade

Which is certainly odd.

The song repeats these three parts, which might have been a problem if there’s no clear verse chorus verse structure.  I don’t know.  I thought the video was pretty cool.

Someone in the comments on YouTube (I know never read the comments, but this one is worthwhile):

“The vocal performance in the semi didn’t go just very well and it somehow lacked a little attitude.”  So that could explain why it stalled.

[READ: May 10, 2021]  “Turbulence”

This is an essay about being on a flight and not getting along with your seat mate.

He opens with the amusing scenario of him sneezing a cough drop out of his mouth and onto the lap of the person next to him.

He has three choices:

  1. Ignore it, let her look down later and think she has a shiny new button on her jeans.
  2. Reach over and pluck it from her pants.
  3. Wake her up and be honest.  Which is what he’d normally do except that they had an earlier altercation.

(more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LUEDJI LUNA-Tiny Desk Meets AFROPUNK: #203/196 (May 2, 2021).

Tiny Desk Meets AFROPUNK was the opening event of AFROPUNK’s “Black Spring” festival. The virtual celebration, hosted by Jorge “Gitoo” Wright, highlighted outstanding talent in Afro-Latin and Afro-Caribbean music across the globe. Our showcase featured four artists who honored their homes and celebrated the art their heritage has inspired.

I don’t really understand why this is called AFROPUNK, as there is nothing even remotely punk about any of the music here.  I thought maybe it was a typo, but this music isn’t even terribly funky.  This music is very smooth jazzy

It is quite good though and Luna’s voice is understated and pretty as she sings in Portuguese.

Luna performs from her coastal hometown of Bahia in the city of Salvador, Brazil, where African culture flows in abundance. She is a powerhouse, entrancing and elegant, soulful and spiritual, as she uses her platform to discuss individual and systemic forms of anti-Blackness.

“Lençois” opens with some gentle piano from Gabriel Gaiardo and washes of cymbals (struck with mallets by Sergio Machado).  Then Luna starts singing in a kind of raspy, seductive whisper.  After a verse, Weslei Rodrigo (and his spectacular beard) lay down a smooth, anchoring bass line.

After the first song, she introduces the band.  After she introduces guitarist Vinicius Sampaio, he plays a solo and sings along with himself in a particularly jazzy way.

Elements of jazz and blues are infused with African rhythms as Luna uses music to express her ongoing struggles for autonomy as a Black woman.

She says,

“I feel that we are living in a crazy moment in a crazy time and music has been a safe place for me — the only safe place for me,” Luedji Luna says in a low, alluring voice as she explains the purpose of her latest album, Bom Mesmo É Estar Debaixo D’Água.

“Erro” opens with a slightly more rocking sound and a guitar solo intro.  I appreciate how different these songs sound from each other while still maintaining her overall vibe.  “Chororô” is a little funky, at least from Rodrigo’s bass.  But jazz is the overall vibe.

I really like the way the song’s chorus plays a five note and pause refrain to give a dramatic opening for the piano and guitar solo.  It’s also fun watching Luna dance.

[READ: May 3, 2021] Parable of the Talents [end]

I wound up reading this book very quickly.  I finished it before the deadlines of the first week’s read.  I was totally sucked in.  I hated parts of it–the woes of 2033 were unbearable–but I couldn’t stop reading it.

And wow, did Butler mess around with my head.

Contradict the first page of the story late in the book, but have it be a totally justifiable reason!  Check.

Not reveal why one of the character has a book published until almost the very end and have it be a real surprise!  Check.

Make me completely reassess the tone of the book and why Butler was writing it?  Check.

This break was a pretty fortuitous one because this week’s reading starts with a lengthy introduction from Asha Vere.  She began making up her own Dreamasks when she was 12.  When she was discovered he was punished. But that didn’t stop her from writing fictions to escape her own life.

When she was 15, an enemy in her school told her that her mother was a heathen and a whore–Asha punched the girl and broke her jaw.  She was spared detention by her stepfather who mostly just liked to molest her.

Once the diaries resume, we see what Olamina’s dealing with.  She is desperately seeking her daughter and is still trying to build up Earthseed.  Allie has actually been settling down with Justin.  She’s making furniture and instructing younger kids how to make it as well. But Olamina can’t stay in Georgetown.  She has decided to head up north.  Inexplicably she is going to go to Portland to find her brother–the brother who disagrees with everything she stands for and who ran away from her.

Allie has arranged a traveling companion for her–against her wishes.  Her name was Belen Ross but she went by Len.  She was born to a rich family; however, she was born from a surrogate and once the family had a natural birth, they gave the cold shoulder.  At 18 ,she was kidnapped and held for ransom.  But her family never paid it.  Eventually her captors just abandoned her.  When she returned home she found that her parents has moved to Alaska.  She had no other option but to go to Alaska.

So here were two people going in search of those who don’t want them. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KING GIZZARD AND THE LIZARD WIZARD-Fishing for Fishies (2019).

The first of two albums released by KGATLW in 2019, Fishing for Fishies is a bluesy, boogie-filled record.

It opens with with two false starts.  There’s the briefest sound of a sound like they’d recorded over another track but left it, then there’s a drum beat that hits a few and stops only to resume a few seconds later and starts the title song.  “Fishing for Fishies” is a soft shuffling song with delicately whispered vocals and a bouncy melody.  It’s super catchy and is followed by “Boogieman Sam” with its bouncy staccato guitar and then Ambrose’s wailing harmonica.

“The Bird Song” is a favorite on the record.  Fun gently whispered lyrics and a remarkably catchy jazzy song.  “Plastic Boogie” is loose blues song with a lot of people talking throughout, giving the whole thing a party atmosphere.

“Cruel Millennial” is sung by Ambrose.  It’s a swinging boogie with a catchy chorus and some wailing harmonica soloing at the end.  “Real’s Not Real” starts as a potentially heavy rocker but as the song proper starts, it shifts abruptly to a kind of mellow Beatles-y piano-pop song.

“This Thing” is a harmonica-fueled blues song with great big bouncy bass line.  “Acarine” is an unusual song on the disc.  It’s slower and moodier slow moody with whispered vocals and piercing harmonica.  Although the last two and a half minutes are an instrumental jam with  looping synths that sound like a sci-fi soundtrack.

“Cyboogie” ends the disc.  It was the first singe off the album and it’s as catchy as anything.  Who knew it was so much fun singing “boogie, boogie, boogie, boogie, boogie, boogie, boogie.”  The buzzy bouncing synth is a great sound for this song and the cyber voice prompts a return of Han-Tyumi who pops in after murdering the universe.

[READ: April 29, 2021] Manopause

I have no idea who Bernard O’Shea is.  Well, he’s an Irish comedian, but I don’t know what kind.  He could be Ireland’s Jeff Foxworthy for all I know.  I doubt that he’s Ireland’s Dave Chapelle, anyway.

I read O’Shea’s first book when it came across my desk at work.  When this one appeared a few days ago I thought it was the same guy.  A little research confirmed it, and since I mostly enjoyed the first book, I thought I would read this one as well.

It’s tough playing the mid-life crisis card, especially for a successful male.  And, honestly, for a bunch of the book I did think “oh, moan moan moan.”  The key though is if you can make the moaning funny.  O’Shea manages to do that for a time but then, unexpectedly, the book gets serious.  O’Shea looks seriously into changing is life and he explores several ways to do so.

Manopause is a funny enough term, but I appreciate that O’Shea had the sensibility to include his mother’s comment about him using the word.

He told his mother he was going through “the manopause…the male menopause.”  To which she replied

If you had any idea what the menopause was like, Bernard, believe me, you wouldn’t go through it.  Sweating, hot flashes, no sleep–at times it feels like you are going mad….  You wouldn’t survive 30 seconds of it.  No man would survive it.  Jesus, if ye did go through it, we’d never hear the end of it.  And if you went through it, you’d hospitalise yourself.

That might be the funniest thing in the book.

We met Bernard’s long-suffering wife Lorna in the first book.  She is longer-suffering still.

In chapter one, Lorna gives him an amazing birthday present.  She takes herself and their three kids away to her mother’s for five days.  He has five days to himself, to do whatever he wants. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKDUCKWRTH-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert Meets SXSW: #189 (April 5, 2021).

Every year, NPR Music participates in the SXSW music festival, whether it’s curating a stage or simply attending hundreds of shows at the annual event in Austin, Texas. Last year, the festival was canceled due to the pandemic, but it returned this March as an online festival. We programmed a ‘stage’ of Tiny Desk (home) concerts and presented them on the final day of the festival. Now, we present to you Tiny Desk Meets SXSW: four videos filmed in various locations, all of them full of surprises.

DUCKWRTH decided to do something special for Tiny Desk Meets SXSW: brand new music. The dynamic R&B singer proceeded to debut two exclusives: a slow jam titled “make u go,” which he dedicates to the “lovers and freaks,” and the upbeat “Birthday Suit,” which KCRW astutely compared to Estelle’s “American Boy.”

The new material wasn’t the only thing that made this Tiny Desk such a treat. For this funky and flamboyant performance, DUCKWRTH dressed his backing band entirely in white and switched up the lighting for each song so that the hue matched the mood he was laying down.

“Kiss U Right Now” [red lights] opens with a muted guitar line from Justin “Jhawk” Hawkins.  After a  soft “Okay” from DUCKWRTH, a kind of sci-fi warbly keyboard comes in from Devin Smith.  And then with a slide on the bass from Solomon “Solo” Smith the song bounces to a start.  DUCKWRTH has a soft croon that he intermixes with rapping verses.   It’s quite inviting and not given to histrionics.

Before “make u go”  [purple lights] he says “Welcome to my Tiny Desk,” he says. “We are gonna play some new songs for y’all if that’s OK. Y’all ain’t got no choice!”  This is mostly gentle keys and then backing vocalists Olivia Walker and Amber Olivia Kiner start by singing the chorus.

He says “Birthday Suit” [white lights] is morning music.  With this amusing line “Meet me in my birthday suit / This ain’t Gucci, it’s way more cute.”  Amber Olivia Kiner sings the lead lines.  The song ends with this refrain:

we look better naked / better in the nude / bend it over baby while in public / we may end up on the news.

“Super Good” [blue lights] is a slow jam with an interesting drum pattern from Darryl Staves Jr.  I really enjoy the simple but synchronized dance steps at the end of the song.

[READ: April 19, 2021] Parable of the Talents [2035]

When this book started I thought that it was an interesting idea to have Lauren’s child go wholly against her.  I even wondered if it was Butler’s rethinking about Earthseed.   Larkin’s attitude about her mother doesn’t exactly change over these chapters, but it does morph a bit.  So much so that by the time chapter seventeen rolls around, Larkin comes across as a bit more of a petulant, jealous person than a critical thinker.

I wonder what my life would have been life if my mother had found me.  I don’t doubt that she would have stolen me from the Alexanders–or died trying.  But then what?  How long would it have been before she put me aside for Earthseed, her other kid?  I was her weakness.  Earthseed was her strength.  No wonder it was her favorite. (265)

2033 was a terrible time and, frankly, a painful read.  The chapter of 2035 tells us that all of Olamina’s diaries from 2034 are lost.  Which is just as well for me since 2034 was a year of the same torture and hellishness and I’m just as happy to not have to read it.

Larkin writes that she met some people who were at Camp Christian (we don’t know how yet) and spoke to a woman named Cody Smith who told her about the attempted uprising by Day Turner and his people–an uprising that failed and that caused a massive increase in suffering for everyone there.

Larkin tells us that everything that was done at Camp Christian was illegal–despite what Jarret tried to make legal. The one thing that seems to have been made legal was the removal of children from their families at the Mexican border because of vagrancy laws. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CLIPPING-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert Meets SXSW: #190 (April 5, 2021).

Every year, NPR Music participates in the SXSW music festival, whether it’s curating a stage or simply attending hundreds of shows at the annual event in Austin, Texas. Last year, the festival was canceled due to the pandemic, but it returned this March as an online festival. We programmed a ‘stage’ of Tiny Desk (home) concerts and presented them on the final day of the festival. Now, we present to you Tiny Desk Meets SXSW: four videos filmed in various locations, all of them full of surprises.

clipping. is an intense band.  I had the pleasure of seeing them live opening for the Flaming Lips.  I was hoping to see them again before the pandemic hit.  This Tiny Desk doesn’t in any way replicate a live show because they play a little visual trick on the viewer–and they keep it up for the whole set.

Leave it to clipping. to innovate around the central notion of the Tiny Desk; to take the series’ emphasis on close-up intimacy and transport it to new heights of, well, tininess.

clipping is a dark, violent band

Producers William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes craft a bed of hip-hop, industrial music and noisy experimentalism, then set loose rapper Daveed Diggs, whose violent imagery summons ’90s horrorcore and a thousand bloody movies. The band’s last two album titles — There Existed an Addiction to Blood and Visions of Bodies Being Burned — offer up a sense of the vibe, but Diggs’ gift for rapid-fire wordplay also acts as a leavening agent.

That’s right, Daveed Diggs.

The guy won a Tony Award for playing Thomas Jefferson and the Marquis de Lafayette in Hamilton, and he still knows how to sell every word that leaves his lips.

So it’s especially amusing to see them have a lot of fun with the Tiny Desk (Home) Concert.  The video opens with a few scenes of tables and gear.  But when the show starts, Daveed Diggs picks up a microphone that’s about the size of a toothpick and starts rapping into it.

  And when William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes come in they are playing laptops and other gear that’s barely an inch in length. I have to assume that this stuff doesn’t actually work and yet they are taking their job very seriously–touching and sliding and tapping and looping on these preposterous toys.

“Something Underneath” starts quietly and then Diggs shows off some of is incredibly fast rapping skills.  Then the guy on the right (I’m not sure who is who) comes into the cameras and starts messing with his tiny gear.  After about 2 minutes the guy on the left comes in and starts making all kinds of distorted beats.  It starts getting louder and louder and louder until the noise fades out and its just Diggs’ voice looping “morning” as he moves the camera and he starts the slower track

The only movement in the video is Diggs moving his camera around to different angles for each song.

“Bout That” is fairly quite until a few minutes in when the song launches off.

Diggs shifts his camera and is finally fully on screen before they start the creepy “Check the Lock.”  It’s got clanking and scratching and pulsing noises for the line

something in this room didn’t used to be / he ain’t ever scared tough / but he check the lock every time we walks by the door.

Midway through the guy on the left starts cranking a tiny music box and he plays it through the next two songs.

It segues into “Shooter” [is there a name for this style of rapping–each line has a pause and a punchline–I really like it].

The music box continues into “The Show” which starts to build louder and louder, getting more an more chaotic.  It fades and builds noisier and chaotic once more until it reduces to a simple beat.  And the guy on the right drinks from his can of BEER.

Noisy squealing introduces “Nothing Is Safe.”  Daveed is pretty intense as he raps “death comes for everyone” pause and then full on sound as he resumes.

clipping is not for everyone–certainly not for people who want to see the guy from Hamilton (he was doing clipping before Hamilton, by the way).  But it creates an intense mood.

The blurb says that Chukwudi Hodge plays drums, but I didn’t see or hear any so i assume that’s a mistake.

[READ: April 21, 2021] Better Than Life

I don’t recall when I started watching Red Dwarf–some time in the 90s, I suspect.  I don’t even know of the show was ever very poplar here in the States, so it’s kind of a surprise that these two Red Dwarf novels even had a U.S. release.  But they did. And I bought them sometime when they came out.

So Grant Naylor is the cleverly combined names of Rob Grant and Doug Naylor–back when they were working together (I’m not sure why one of them left).   They penned two Red Dwarf books together, then they each wrote a Red Dwarf book separately.

This second book picks up from where the events of the previous book cliffhangered us.  There is a TV episode called “Better Than Life” and this book is kind of an super- mega-hyper-expanded version of that episode.  Except that the things that happened in the episode don’t even really happen in the book, either.

The basics of the episode are that Better Than Life is a video game that allows your deepest subconscious fantasies to come true.  And since everything is your fantasy, this game is indeed Better Than Life.  It’s easy to leave the game.  All you have to do is want to.  But who would want to leave a game when everything in it is better than what you’d be leaving it for?

As such, your body stars to wither and decay because you don’t eat, you don’t move, you just exist.  It’s a deadly game.

Rimmer’s fantasy at the end of the first book was that he had married a supermodel–a gorgeous babe whom every man wanted.  Except that she wouldn’t let him touch her for insurance reasons.  Rimmer has a problem or thirty with his self image.  But he was still super wealthy and women everywhere adored him. However as this book opens, he has divorced his babe and married a boring woman who also doesn’t want to have sex with him.  As thing move along, he loses his fortune and, ultimately his hologrammatic body.  He becomes just a voice.  Through a serious of hilarious mistakes, he winds up in the body of a woman.

One of the nice aspects of this book is that Grant Naylor have Rimmer see what a douchey sexist man he’s been all this time–believing all women were either his mother or a sex bomb.

The Cat’s scenario is pretty much all libido–Valkyrie warriors serving him and he gets to do pretty much whatever he wants–his clock doesn’t have times, it has activities: nap, sex, eat, nap, sleep, etc.

The one difference is that Kryten is there with him.  Kryten’s deepest fantasy is leaning, and so he keeps finding new things to clean in Cat’s world.

There’s another wonderful bit of anti-religion in this book (there’s always some anti-religion aspect in these stories).  In this one they talk about Silicon Heaven.

The best way to keep the robots subdued was to give them religion. … almost everything with a hint of artificial intelligence was programmed to believe that Silicon Heaven was he electronic afterlife….

If machines served their human masters with diligence and dedication, they would attain everlasting life in mechanical paradise when their components finally ran down.

At last they had solace. They were every bit as exploited as they’d always been, but now they believed there was some kind of justice at the end of it.

Lister’s fantasy is the same as it was before.  He’s living in the city from It’s a Wonderful Life and he’s married to Kristine Kochanski and he has two boys.  As the book opens there’s  a wonderfully touching moment with his family and his kids.

But it is abruptly demolished when a woman driving a tractor trailer crashes the truck in to Bedford Falls.  Literally all of Bedford Falls–every building is demolished or caught on fire.  There’s virtually nothing left.  And when the woman gets out of the truck dressed as  a prostitute and claims to know Lister, well, Kristine takes their boys and leaves him.  He has nothing.

It should come as no surprise that the woman is actually Rimmer.

What about Holly, the ship’s computer with an IQ of 6,000?  Can’t he save them?  Well, no.  He can’t get into the game, plus, he’s going a little crazy from being alone for so long.  So crazy in fact that he decides to start talking to Talkie Toaster, a gag gift that Lister bought for $19.99.

The sequence with the toaster is hilarious on the show (it only wants to talk about bready products!) and it translates perfectly to the book as well.  Essentially, Talkie Toaster encourages Holy to increase his IQ (which has been slowly leaking away) at the risk of shortening his life span.  Unfortunately, things go a little awry and Holly’s IQ eclipses 12,000. But his run time is cut to a number if minutes.

So he need to turn everything off if he wants to stay alive. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: VOIVOD-Lost Society (2020).

Voivod have been around for over 30 years.  In that time, they’ve releases only four lives albums.  The first one was from the period when their original and current singer had departed, so that doesn’t really count.  In 2011 they released Warriors of Ice, a live album that featured the reunited original lineup minus deceased guitarist Piggy.  The third was a limited release from the 2011 Roadburn Festival.

Thus, we have this new release to acknowledge the excellence of their 2018 album The Wake.  This show was recorded at Quebec City Summer Fest on July 13, 2019.  I saw them on this tour on April 5, 2019.  The setlist was largely the same, although they played more in their hometown (and I would have loved to see “Astronomy Domine”).

Being in front of a hometown crowd has the band fully energized.  It also allows Snake to speak French to the audience, which is fun.

Most of Voivod’s music is really complicated and difficult (the chords that Piggy and now Chewy came up with are pretty hard to imagine).  And yet they play everything perfectly.  There’s not a lot of room for jamming when the songs are this tight and complex, but it’s clear the band are enjoying themselves anyway.

Since this is touring their new album, the majority of songs (4) are from it with two more songs from their 2016 EP Post Society.  The rest of the set is pretty much a song from each of the albums prior to 1993 (excluding the album with the best name: Rrröööaaarrr).

They interfile the new songs with the older ones, and it feels really seamless.  This shows how much of a student of Piggy new guitarist Chewy turned out to be.

The few times that Snake speaks in English, he says that Angel Rat’s “The Prow” is “time to dance time to party have fun” something one wouldn’t expect to do at a Voivod show, but compared to their other songs, it is pretty dancey.

My favorite Voivod album (aside from The Wake, which is really outstanding) is Nothingface, so I was really excited to hear “Into My Hypercube” and to hear that Rocky’s bass sounded just right.

Their older stuff is a little less complex and proggy so a song like 1987’s “Overreaction” is a bit heavier and straight ahead.

One of the more entertaining moments is during the opening of “The Lost Machine” where Snake stands between Chewy and Rocky and waves his arms to strum the chords first guitar, then bass, then guitar then bass, etc.

It is strange to think that this is only one-half of the classic line up.  In fact, drummer Away is the only person to have never left the band.  I assumed that when Piggy died, there was no point in continuing, but these replacements were really great.

And, Snake makes sure we never forget Piggy.  They end every show with the song that has the same name as the band.  And before they play it, he starts a chant “Piggy! Piggy!”  In this live recording, you can hear the audience screaming along to “voivod,” a nonsensical word that remains strong thirty-five years on.

The setlist for the album is at the bottom of the post.  I sure hope they tour around here again someday.

[READ: April 20, 2021] Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers

I don’t recall when I started watching Red Dwarf–some time in the 90s, I suspect.  I don’t even know if the show was ever very poplar here in the States, so it’s kind of a surprise that these two Red Dwarf novels even had a U.S. release.  But they did. And I bought them (and read them, I think, although it’s all new to me 30 years later) sometime when they came out.

So Grant Naylor is the cleverly combined names of Rob Grant and Doug Naylor–back when they were working together (I’m not sure why one of them left).   They penned two Red Dwarf books together, then they each wrote a Red Dwarf book separately.

This first one is basically an expanded version of some of the episodes from the first and second season.

Most of the jokes from the episodes are present here–so it’s easy to picture the characters saying the lines.  But there’s also a ton of new stuff.  Much of it fleshes out things that happened in the show, but still other things are brand new.

The book starts with the death of a Red Dwarf crew member.  He is now a hologram and rather than being excited about being alive, he is horrified to think of all the things his wife will get up to now that he is dead but aware of what is happening.  We also meet another man who is about to die–this time by suicide.  He is in debt for a lot of money and decided it was better than being beaten to death by the men he owed money to.

Turns out, this man outranked the first man and since the Red Dwarf mining ship could only support one hologram, this man was brought back at the expense of the first one.  A lot of ground is covered in these first two chapters and we haven’t even met any of the main characters of the show yet.

Dave Lister comes along in Chapter 3.  For those unfamiliar with the show, Dave Lister is the main character and also the last human being alive.  In the show he is three million years into deep space.  But he had been in stasis so he is only 27 when he is brought out and told the news that everyone is dead.

But as the book starts, Lister is miserable on a planet Mimas.  He got really drunk at his birthday party in Liverpool and, by the end of the night, he was on a planet very far from home with no money to get back. (more…)

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