Feeds:
Posts
Comments

harpaugSOUNDTRACK: LAND OF KUSH-The Big Mango [CST097] (2013).

mangoOsama Shalibi is how Sam Shaibi is credited on this album.  He is the composer and creator of The Big Mango, although he does not appear on it.

Some background that may or may not be useful.  This comes from Popmatters:

“Big Mango” is the nickname for Cairo and The Big Mango is a love letter from composer Osama (Sam) Shalabi to his new home, Cairo, and all of its tumults and contradictions…. Reveling in free-jazz noise, rock rhythms, and the radical propulsion that Shalabi encountered on trips to Dakar, Senegal, the album weaves the divine spirit unleashed through fury and joy and dance into an utterly fascinating whole…  This pinging between controlled pandemonium and something beautiful, strident, transcendent, is not accidental. Shalabi is tackling the nature of change and the place of women in Arab culture on Big Mango, and by so clearly blurring the strange and the celebratory, he suggests that even sweeping, radical change need not be a revolution, but perhaps a way of life, movement as vital force in the universe.

With an introduction like that it’s hard not to want to love this record.  But a with everything Shalibi does, he is always trying to push boundaries and attitudes.  And so, this album has some songs that are really fun ad/or pretty and some songs that feel like (but apparently are not) wild improvisations that test the limit of your patience for experimentation.

As I mentioned, Shalibi doesn’t play on this –I would have loved to hear his oud, but instead we hear all kinds of interesting Western and Eastern instruments: setar (is a Persian version of the sitar), flutes, saxophones, piano, balafon (a wooden xylophone), hand drums: riqq (a type of tambourine), darbuka (goblet drum), and tablas (like bongos) and of course, guitars and bass.

“Faint Praise” opens the disc with 3 and a half minutes of Middle Eastern music quietly played with a rather free form vocal over the top.  The vocals are a series of wails and cries (and almost animalistic yips).  It sounds like an orchestra warming up, and indeed, the Constellation blurb says:

These opening six minutes are an inimitable destabilizing strategy of Shalabi’s – his lysergic take on an orchestra ‘warming up’ – that serves to introduce most of the instrumental voices and the montage of genres that will form the rest of the work

It comes abruptly to a halt with “Second Skin,”  a much more formal piano piece—structured notes that end after a few minutes only to be joined by a saxophone solo that turns noisy and skronking and nearly earsplitting.

After some dramatic keyboard sounds, “The Pit (Part 1)” becomes the first song with vocals (and the first song that is really catchy).  It begins with a jolly sax line which is accompanied by another sax and a flute before the whole band kicks in with a refreshingly catchy melody.  For all that Shalibi likes exploration, he has a real gift for melody as well.  The lovely lead vocals on this track are by Ariel Engle.  It’s very catchy, with a somewhat middle eastern setar riff and those voices.  When the song stops and it’s just voices, it’s really beautiful.  The song is 7 minutes long and I love the way the last 30 seconds shift gears entirely to a more dramatic, slower section.  This section is so great, I wish it lasted longer.

“The Pit (Part 2)” is only two minutes long.  It’s a quiet coda of piano and flute.  After about a minute, a low saxophone melody kicks in, it is slowly joined by other instruments and Engle’s voice.  Unfortunately I can’t really tell what she’s singing, but it sounds very nice.

“Sharm El Bango” is a jazzy song with hand drums and all kinds of space age samples spinning around the song.  I really like when the flute melody takes over and the song become quite trippy.

“Mobil Ni” is the second song with vocals.  It begins with some strings instruments and hand drums over a slow bass line.  Then Katie  Moore;s voice come s in with a gentle lovely vibrato.  Her voice is a little smoother than Engle’s.  The song ends with a mellow section.  And then there’s a trumpet blast that signals the beginning of “St. Stefano.”  The trumpet gives way to brief explorations off free-jazz type before turning giving way to a bowed section with resonating bass notes.

“Drift Beguine” returns to catchy territory with a full Middle Eastern musical phrase and Elizabeth Anka Vajagic’s lovely voice raging from high to scratchy and breathy.  Around 4 minutes when the pace picks up, it’s really quite fun.

The final track is the only one that really rocks.  “The Big Mango” has a big catchy guitar riff and hand drums filled in by Molly Sweeney’s rock vocals.  The song ends the disc as a kind of fun celebration.

As with most of Shalibi’s releases, it’s not for everyone.  But there’s a lot of great stuff hear, if you’re willing to experiment.

[READ: August 25, 2016] “Don the Realtor”

I hate to contribute anymore attention to Trump.  But it’s hard to pass up a chance to read Martin Amis, especially when he eviscerate his targets so eloquently.  Hopefully Trump’s voice will soon disappear from the airways and we can go back to forgetting about him.

Ostensibly this is a review of “two books by Donald Trump,” The Art of the Deal (1987) and Crippled America (2015).

Amis begins, as he usually does, by getting to the point: “Not many facets of the Trump apparition have so far gone unexamined, but I can think of a significant loose end.  I mean his sanity: What is the prognosis for his mental healthy given the challenges that lie ahead?”

Some basic questions come up about Trump: “Is his lying merely compulsive, or is he an outright mythomaniac, constitutionally unable to distinguish non-truth from truth.  Amis adds that “Politifact has ascertained that Donald’s mendacity rate is just over 90 percent, so the man who is forever saying he ‘tells it lie it is’ turns out to be nearly always telling it like it isn’t.”

But the Trump lying machine has grown from the rubble of the G.O.P. which “has more or less adopted the quasi slogan ‘there is no downside to lying.'” Continue Reading »

[ATTENDED: September 25, 2016] The Legend of Zelda

legendBack in the summer we took the kids to the Mann Center to see Symphonic Pokémon.  And it was pretty great.  Well, the Mann Center closed its season with a symphonic Legend of Zelda performance.  Clark has been a big Zelda fan for a couple of years (he loves the soundtrack particularly), so it seemed like an obvious show to go to.

Our one regret is that it was on a Sunday night which meant we didn’t get home until 11, which is just too late for a school night (especially since earlier in the week we took the kids to see “Weird Al” and got home even later–terrible parents, yes, but pretty cool parents).  But that was the only regret we had.

The show was fantastic.  Clark even wore his Zelda Halloween costume (and brought his home-made cardboard sword–which passed security thankfully).  And he was not the only one in costume–some people were very seriously dressed for this event. Continue Reading »

[ATTENDED: September 24, 2016] Band of Horses

2016-09-24-22-06-57This is our third time seeing Band of Horses in three years.  Sarah and I loved their first three albums a lot, so in 2004 when XPNFest announced they were opening for Beck, we knew it was an amazing pairing.  They were great and we decided we needed to see them as the headliners.  The following year, they came back although this time opening for Neil Young.  We were going to see Neil anyway, so it was even better that BoH was opening.  But that set was shorter than the first!  We needed the full experience.

One year later, the busiest weekend we’ve had in a long time, and BoH was squeezed right into the middle of it.

We love The Fillmore in Philly, it’s a great venue with really good sound (and nice parking).  So it was a great place to hear the soaring vocals of Ben Bridwell.and the rest of the band.

The show was an outstanding mix of songs from four of their albums (turns out that their previous album Mirage Rock has been largely dismissed by the band and they don’t play much from it anymore).  And that’s fine because the four albums are awesome. Continue Reading »

[ATTENDED: September 24, 2016] Restorations

2016-09-24-20-25-47Restorations opened for Band of Horses.  They’re from Philadelphia, but I didn’t know them at all.  At the end of the set the singer said that they used to practice around the corner from the venue and that it was a real trip playing here.  So that was fun.

Before the show, I looked them up and saw them described as alternative, punk and post-hardcore. I was expecting a really heavy rocking band.  But somehow, when they opened for Band of Horses, they sounded a lot more like…Band of Horses.  I’ve been listening to their stuff on the site and I’d say there’s something about the guitars of “Misprint” that reminded me of BoH.

On their studio albums, lead singer Jon Loudon has a gravelly voice, but it didn’t quite sound that way live for some reason.  And the music had the soaring quality of Band of Horses’ more rocking songs.

And it was great.  They were definitely heavier than BoH, but the overall vibe worked perfectly.

The drummer in particular played some great rhythms and really bashed the hell out of the kit.  But the whole band played well off each other.  There were quite a few guitars, occasional keys and a small horn section.

Loudon said that the trumpeter and trombonist who were on stage were playing live with them for the first time.  They added a nice touch but were not mic’d so it wasn’t always easy to hear them.  But when they came through it was good.

I don’t know any of their songs, so I can’t give a setlist, but According to some recent shows, the songs they’ve been playing are:  New Old, The Plan, Separate Songs, West River, Misprint, D, A, Let’s Blow Up the Sun, The Future, Tiny Prayers and Documents.  Confirmation of lyrics shows I have a 20 second clip of “Tiny Prayers” here.

I’ve been listening to their stuff on their tumblr site (it tickles me that their albums are called Restorations, LP2 and LP3) and it’s really good.

They were a great complement to Band of Horses (Ben Bridwell also raved about them when he came on stage) and I’m excited to hear more from them.2016-09-24-20-17-01

1975SOUNDTRACK: ESQUIMEAUX-Tiny Desk Concert #466 (August 28, 2015).

esquimeauxEsquimeaux is Gabrielle Smith, who is the keyboardist in Bellows, a band that played a Tiny Desk Concert just a few months before this one.  As far as her stage name,

as an adopted child, Smith discovered that her biological father is Tlingit Eskimo; she describes the -eaux suffix as “just a playful jumble of letters that represents the way I record — a confusing layering of sounds that somehow coalesce into something simple.”.

Smith sings three songs in less than ten minutes.  She has a pretty, unaffected voice–just clean and clear vocals.  For the first two songs it’s just her and her guitar

“Folly” is a simple song as you might expect from just a strummed electric guitar.  But there’s something about the way she sings her lines in a series of rising notes that is really inviting.  She also has a nice way with words.  Like:

In my dreams you’re a bathtub running / You are warm and tender / And bubbling

“A Hug Too Long” is a faster song with a simple but interesting guitar riff that’s followed by a simple but interesting vocal melody.  Again, her clear voice fits perfectly with the music.  It features the intriguing chorus: “You went to work, I went to New Brunswick.”

Her final song is “I Admit I’m Scared.”  She has her bandmates from Bellows come out to sing with her.   There’s no extra instrumentation, but Smith sings in a slightly deeper register and Bellows fleshes out sections of the song (they even do a kind of deadpan synchronized move after each chorus).   Another great line of hers is: “And everything I said spewed like sparklers from my mouth.  They looked pretty as they flew but now they’re useless and burnt out.”  As the song ends, everyone sings louder “If I had a dime for every time I’m freaking out” which leads to a  dramatic climax before the final resolution: “We could fly around the world / Or just get out of your parents’ house.”

Bob jokes at the end that they can come back any time with a new band.  She says they have five other bands (including Told Slant and Small Wonder).  He says “you could come in every Tuesday.”

Bellows isn’t that different from Esquimeaux in style–pretty, quiet songs that are articulate and almost deadpan.  But having Smith sing (and presumably write) changes the way the style is created.  Which is pretty cool.

[READ: June 8, 2016] The Complete Peanuts 1975-1976

I really enjoyed this book a lot.  In the introduction, Robert Smigel talks about how it seems like in this era, Schulz turned a corner a bit to become more absurd.  The jokes are sillier, with new characters and some crazy ideas–like talking buildings, pitching mounds and body parts.  He wonders if it was Schulz’ happy marriage or just a desire to take some chances rather than repeating himself.  But whatever the case, the book is really fun.  I especially love the Peppermint Patty/Marcie strips in which Schulz just seems to be having a great time.  I also love all of the jokes with Sally in which she makes herself laugh with some awful puns–I just imagine Schulz cracking himself up and not being able to wait to draw the strips.

But for all of the newness of the strips, Peanuts is always seasonal.  So 1975 beings with ice skating and snowmen.  Linus has made a snowman reclining and reading a book. Charlie asks if it’s Robert Frost and Linus snarks “You said it, I didn’t.”

Patty has been falling asleep a lot in school–her dad is away–and Snoopy makes as terrible watchdog for her.  More funny Patty moments are when she is being so decisive about true false questions.  “Irrefutably true, understandably false, intrinsically false, inherently false, charmingly true.”  To which Franklin asks “Charmingly?”  Patty also becomes the first disciple of the Great Pumpkin–but she blows it by asking for a gift, as if the Great Pumpkin is some kind of Santa Claus. Continue Reading »

[LISTENED TO: August 2016] The Penderwicks in Spring

pend-springWe have loved the Penderwick books.  But I remember that when this came out, Sarah read it and was disappointed. Not in the quality of the book, but because the story has moved on.  This book is set about five years after the action of the previous book.

I totally get Birdsall’s desire to write about Batty rather than her older sisters–to move on from what she has written about for three books.  In the previous book Rosalind was more or less absent, so Birdsall is not afraid to progress with her characters.  But those characters are so great, that to have them largely absent from the story was so frustrating!  I missed them all (So I guess she could take that as a compliment).

Of course, the “new” characters are fun, too.  The book is mostly about Batty, but her younger half-brother Ben is older and quite a character (and he gets to show us things from his point of view–the only boy in a family of strong Penderwick girls).  And Batty’s father and stepmother have had a new baby, Lydia, who is just climbing out of her crib and is quite a handful. Continue Reading »

[LISTENED TO: August 2016] Neil Armstrong Is My Uncle & Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me

neilThe title of this book sounded weird and fun. So I grabbed it from the audio book collection at the library and we listened to it on the way home from vacation.

Set in Long Island (narrator Emily Bauer does some great Long Island accents for the adults (and a few kids) in the story), this is the story of a young girl, Tamara Ann Simpson (Tammy) growing up on Ramble Street in 1969 just a few weeks from the Moon Landing!

But that’s miles away.  Because it is summertime and all she can think about is kickball.  Well kickball and her friend Kebsie who took off all of a sudden one day without even saying goodbye.

Kebsie was Tammy’s best friend.  She lived in a foster home on Ramble Street.  They did everything together and even had a secret “arooo” signal.  They were BFs and even bought necklaces to prove it.  Kebsie was a straight shooter and took no crap from anyone.  And then one day, she was gone.  As we understand it, her mother returned and took Kebsie away to secret place because there was some kind of abuse in he family and they needed to be removed from everyone they knew. Continue Reading »

%d bloggers like this: