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moses SOUNDTRACK: WE ARRIVE ALIVE-One (2013).

oneThis is the final EP available from the We Arrive Alive bandcamp site.  In fact 2013 is the last I can find any information about this band at all.  This site, their Facebook page, there’s nothing after mid 2013.  I wonder what happened.

For this EP, the band has also grown to a 7 piece Andrew McGurk, Ben Healy, Adam Faulkner, Sean Dexter, Iain Faulkner, Michael Naude, Neil Dexter (still no idea who plays what).

“3 years” opens with some noise and fat propulsive bass and guitar.  The song feels more complex, although I’m not sure what the new musicians add to the song. There’s more noise (scraping guitar and whatnot ) that bring new dissonant textures to the song.  There may even be horns at the end (it’s a little hard to tell in the din). “Slow Fall” opens with a slow piano and an intricate drum pattern. A slow guitar line plays over the bass before some really noisy guitars are laid over the top.  At around 4 minutes the song shifts gear becoming faster and more broody.

The final song start with some ringing chords and a staccato guitar line. I like the way the new guitar introduces a melody to the proceedings. The song really starts to build at around 2 minutes, with some crashing cymbals shortly after.  There’s also a pretty middle section (which seems like a ticking clock).  The song end with a ringing guitar-and unexpected mellow ending to what I assumed would be a loud buildup to a song.

I’m intrigued by the direction the band went with this EP, although I like the sound of their previous one a bit more.  I am also concerned that they’ve broken up.  But if they have, they have three great EPs to their name.

[READ: March 24, 2015] Robert Moses

I can’t tell how ignorant I am that I’ve never heard of Robert Moses.  I mean his name sounded vaguely familiar, but I would never have known who he was (the master builder of New York City).  And I have to wonder if I am not alone.  For this book was originally written in French (and was printed in Poland and released in England).

This turns out to be a graphic novel biography of Robert Moses.  It’s hard to summarize how incredibly influential Moses was.  The back of the book says “From the streets to the skyscrapers, from Wall Street to the Long Island suburbs, every inch of New York City tells the story of one man’s mind.”

If you have seen the (excellent) book Wonderstruck, the mini model of New York City mentioned in the book was created for Moses.  New York Bound books describes the model thusly: “The Panorama, a miniature scale model of New York City that was commissioned by Robert Moses for the 1964 World’s Fair, is a 9,335 square foot architectural model that includes every single building constructed before 1992 in all five boroughs, or a total of 895,000 individual structures.” Continue Reading »

fatherlan SOUNDTRACK: WE ARRIVE ALIVE-My Friend the Bombmaker (2012).

Obombf the three EPs, on the bands bandcamp site, this is my favorite.  There was no band member listing on the first EP, but on this one, the band is a five piece: Andy, Neil, Ben, Michael & Adam.

This EP has four songs.  It opens with “My Friend the Bombmaker” in which the drums and bass have a bit more prominence but as soon as the guitars kick in it is clearly We Arrive Alive.   They seem to have made this sound their own.  I enjoy the way they mix things up on this song–some staccato parts which then jumps into a slow part with a bass line that makes the song seem more positive than it might.  A bright guitar line echoes that sentiment.

This EP features the two shortest songs recorded by the band.  Each is around three and a half minutes. “A Lethal Black Ooze” opens with some keyboard sounds and swirling guitars. The actual riff feels far more ominous than the previous song.  This one ends in an odd way—sort of abruptly.  “Zombies” opens with a great guitar riff. I love the way the bass thuds along in this one too.  Then the song kicks into high gear and simply propels itself along.  It comes and goes so quickly that when it does end at just over 3 and a half minutes you’re sure there will be more (and you want more).

The final song is slow and the bent guitar notes and rumbling at the end are ominous indeed.   “Dachau” may be a little too intense as a title, but the song is still effective and does evoke a sense of horror.

I really enjoyed this EP.

[READ: March 21, 2015] Fatherland

More than the story, the thing that struck me most about this graphic novel was the art.  Bunjevac has a beautiful realistic style that is uncanny in its use of lines and shading.  This book is simply gorgeous to look at (the cover indicates the kind of art inside).  I was constantly drawn in by the crosshatching, marveling that it was never “perfect” despite how perfect it looked.  It was these little “flaws” that made it look all the better.

The book opens in Toronto in 2012.  The narrator (shown on the first page drawing) is startled that her mother has come by unannounced,  but she uses the opportunity to bring up something that has been bothering her for many years.  Her mother has selective memory about her past (the narrator’s childhood).  Her mom can easily remember celebrities and other minutiae but her own life she doesn’t seem to recall.

And then we flash back to Welland, Ontario in 1975.  The narrator is the youngest of three children.  Her mother, after years of being unhappily married, begins taking precautions against the night–pushing a wardrobe in front of the window.  She once tried to flee from her husband (who was abusive), but he promised things would be different.  And they were, briefly. Continue Reading »

lumpenSOUNDTRACK: WE ARRIVE ALIVE-“Walls” (2011).

wallsI discovered We Arrive Alive from the Girl Band bandcamp site (it says the bands are friends).  They are from County Wicklow and play very cool post rock instrumentals.  They have three EPs, all of which are available for free on their bandcamp site.

Their first is called Walls.  The opening song “Walls” has fast guitar with a slinky Sleater-Kinney kind of guitar progression. Unlike S-K, there is bass and no vocals. The middle section feels like any number of post-rock instrumentalists like Explosions in the Sky.  But it’s not derivative–it’s expansive and beautiful.  “Save Me from the Morning” is a much faster song with a more intricate bassline underneath the guitar riffs. The structure of the song makes it seem more like a conventional song (ie one with words). But there are no words, and the guitars fill in very nicely for where vocals might appear. But 90 seconds in, the songs switches gears and becomes a bit more jazzy.  Then around 3 minutes the bass takes over with big loud notes—it’s a great transition. There’s yet another part, a quiet section, that ends the song.  That’s a lot of music packed into 6 and a half minutes.

“This is a City” is the final song.  A seven minute slow building instrumental. It starts quietly and the intertwining guitars get louder as they echo more.  I love the way at around 5 minutes the song shifts gears entirely to a sort of electronic feel with pinging notes.  It ends with a  fantastic closing riff.

I’m glad to have discovered these guys, I love a good collection of instrumentals.

[READ: March 17, 2015] A Little Lumpen Novelita

This may be the final extant untranslated book by Roberto Bolaño.  Although I have yet to read The Secret of Evil (that fell right off my radar), as far as I can tell, the only things left untranslated are:

  • Diorama (this book is unpublished at all, so it’s unlikely to be translated anytime soon)  AND
  • Consejos de un discípulo de Morrisona un fanático de Joyce, 1984  [Advice from a Morrison Disciple to a Joyce Fanatic] which has yet to be translated and I don’t know why, so I assume it never will be.

I don’t fully understand the use of the word “Lumpen” in the title, but don’t let that odd word (which is in the Spanish title, so we can’t blame excellent translator Natasha Wimmer) keep you from reading this breezy and entertaining (if not a bit dark) book.

As with many books by Bolaño, there’s not a lot of plot, per se.  In this book, a young woman (Bianca) and her brother have been orphaned at a young age.  Their parents died in a car crash in Italy (which is where they live).  They try to cope as best they can, but they ultimately decide to drop out of school and do nothing except watch a movie a day.  Bianca tells her brother that they can’t afford that lifestyle (especially since he just seems to get X-Rated films), but he continues to do so anyway.

They realize that they will need money of course, so Bianca gets a job as a hair washer at a salon.  Her brother gets a job cleaning floors at a gym.  It seems to be enough for the time being. Continue Reading »

escapoSOUNDTRACK: GIRL BAND-France 98 (2012).

france98France 98 is the final piece of music available on Girl Band’s bandcamp site (every thing else is sold out and not streaming).  I assume the other songs will be on their properly released EP later this year.  (And from what I hear, their sets at SXSW were killer).

While their debut single was a noisy alternative rock and roll song, France 98 really ups the ante of buzzsaw guitar noise (that they seem to do even more on more recent tracks).

“You’re A Dog” has a dizzying riff that opens the song and only lets up for occasional forays into a more piercing noise.  The bridge (it’s not the chorus I don’t think because that seems to be at the end), is similarly dizzying with the vocals blending into the swirling guitars.  “Busy at Maths” actually slows things down with some fairly pretty guitar notes before the more conventional alt rock kicks in.  After the chaos of the first song it’s nice to bring it down ta bit with this sound.  “That Snake Conor Cusack” is one of my favorite songs by Girl Band, the bass is interesting and the riff is really full and kind of catchy.  I do find the part in the middle where he repeats “I finish dead last” over and over to be unsettling, but it’s still a cool song.  It ends with some scorching noise

And “side two” picks up with more noise.  The title song is a 75 second blast of 4/4 hardcore.  When all the instruments kick in it’s even noisier.  “Second One” brings a more reasonable beat to the proceedings.  It also has one of the more complex bass patterns.  It’s has a cool opening and is a fairly conventional song with lots of scratchy guitar noises.  And at nearly 6 minutes it’s really quite long for them.  “Handswaps” is a slow, menacing song that plays with feedback and effects over a slow bass line.  The blasts of guitar noise are pretty shocking when the rip out from the noise.

I’m really curious to hear what Girl band does next.  I’d like to see them live, but I fear more my ears.

[READ: March 19, 2015] Escapo

As far as I can tell this story was originally published in 1999.  This volume has the story in color and adds some new material as well.

I’ve been a little iffy on Paul Pope.  His visual  style is unsettling to me.  This is not a bad thing, it’s just not something I would go out of my way to seek out.  But I saw this book at work, and I pretty much always grab new graphic novels at work, and with Pope’s name on it, I figured it was worth a look.

And it is.  It’s an interesting book filled with Pope’s dark and slightly askew visuals.  It tells the story of Escapo, the circus’ master escape artist.  And as such, Pope’s visual work quite well in this circus setting.

There are a couple of short stories in the book.  In the first, Escapo is in love with the Magnificent Aerobella, the tightrope walker.  She is very pretty (Pope does draw pretty, but to my eye there is still something odd about the pretty woman–the scratches or the shadows or something.  Escapo is distracted by her–which can be deadly in his line of work. Continue Reading »

blacksad1SOUNDTRACK: GIRL BAND-Live at Kex Hostel in Reykjavik (November 8, 2014)

girlbandlive This brief concert finally allows us to see just how Girl Band make their unholy noise.  And yes, it is just four guys–guitar (and a whole lot of pedals) bass drums and a vocalist.

“Sexy Wife” has staccato guitars until the real noise kicks in for the chorus (oh, so that’s how he does it).  It’s also fun watching the bassist remain largely calm while still playing some unsuaul high notes on his instrument.  The drummer doesn’t have any fancy gizmos, but he keeps a steady loud beat.  And I love that the singer is quite a pretty fellow in his Oxford shirt and parted hair (but he can scream like the best of them).

“De Bom Bom (their newest single) is just full of noise and more noise (how can you have chords if it’s just staicky noise?) as the bass rumbles along.  This song is intense.

“Heckle The Frames” is a noisy chaotic pile of hardcore (and is about 90 seconds long).  It’s followed by “I Love You” a cover of the Beat Happening song.  For this one, it’s pretty much all bass and drums while the guitarist fiddles with his pedals making a larger wall of noise until he begins playing a ringing open note.  I don’t know the original, but I imagine it’s nothing like this.

“Lawman” shows off just how noisy the bassist can be in the opening moments.  And his riff, coupled with the noisy riff of the guitar, make for such an enjoyable combination.  I love how the song which you assume is over–at about the length of their other songs–suddenly turns into something else altogether–a sort of guitar solo, if you will.

The final song is “The Cha Cha Cha” which is all of 25 seconds.  It’s a pretty great set if you like your music noisy.

[READ: March 19, 2015] Blacksad

This book collects the first three Blacksad volumes: Somewhere within the Shadows (2000), Arctic Nation (2002) and Red Soul (2005).  I’m only bummed that it took me so long between books to read them.  They were translated by Anthya Flores and Patricia Rivera

It’s amazing to see that it takes two or three years between books, but when you look at the visuals, it is completely understandable.  The drawings/paintings in these volumes are simply incredibly.  They are incredibly realistic with exquisite attention paid to detail.  The fact that he can make people with animal heads seem sexy is really a testament to his drawing skills.

Okay so Blacksad is a noirish detective series with a slight twist.  John Blacksad is a cat.  Well, he is a human shaped person with a cat head.  But otherwise he is very much a detective–he is hunky, has smoldering eyes and is a really hard dude. And that first story opens with his former lover dead in her bead.  She is so pretty (and colored in pale fleshtones), that one might be hard pressed to see her as a car (except for the ears).

This mystery is personal and John sets out to find out who wanted his former lover dead. Continue Reading »

amarilloSOUNDTRACK: GIRL BAND-In My Head (2012).

inmyheadI enjoyed “Why They Hide They Bodies Under My Garage?” so much that I immediately went to Girl Band’s bandcamp site to check out their other releases.

They have a bunch of EPs and singles out.  This was their first one.  It’s hard to believe that the band who is so experimental with noise and feedback sounds so different just two short years ago.

I like this single (which is only two songs and which you can get for free from their site), even though it has none of the more noisy elements that would come on later songs). Having said that it’s not like these are sweet ballads.  They are plenty noisy, just in a more conventional indie rock vein.

They actually sound a bit like a Steve Albini project–sharp guitars and feedback (and both songs total 5 minutes)–and an aggressive feel like Therapy? perhaps.

“In My Head” has a pretty conventional rhythm section (which unusual guitars) and a rocking chorus that is pretty catchy.  By the time the singer starts screaming the chorus the second time around, a lot has  been packed into 2 minutes.  “Conductor” has a thumping bass line that propels the song while the guitars alternate between ringing dissonant chords and a squealy guitar line.  The vocals are almost spoken and sound like someone but i can’t quite place it).  And once again, the chorus is strangely catchy under the noise.

But make no mistake this is still an abrasive bunch.

[READ: December 29, 2014] Blacksad: Amarillo

So I see now that this is actually the fifth book in the series, not the third.  I’m glad I found the fourth volume before reading this one.  I hope to get the first 3 volume set soon.  There’s a wonderful introduction by Neal Adams who puts some context and admiration for these guys’ work.

I enjoyed this story a bit more than A Silent Hell (which was really, really dark).  The fact that this one is so bright on the cover (and while I thought amarillo meant yellow (which it does) it is also set in Amarillo, Texas.

It opens with two lions–both writers–sitting by a pool.  The one writer (who is bigger in general) throws his poetry into the pool out of artistic honesty, while the other sits, aghast.  The poet then tries to throw the other writer’s scroll of a novel into the pool as well, but when the novelist talks about his work he did the poet scoffs and says he should think of it not as work but as poetry.  They depart with hard feelings between them. Continue Reading »

blacksad4SOUNDTRACK: GIRL BAND-“Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage?” (2014).

girl band I first heard about Girl Band from the NPR Austin 100 list.  This song blew me away.  It is a noisy and unrelenting 8 minutes.  It builds and builds into a chaotic tumult.  And, amazingly, it is a cover of a dance song.

Girl Band is from Dublin and they make some of the noisiest rock I’ve heard in a long time.  Not heavy rumbling death metal noise, but ear-piercing feedback and squalls and sqwaks of sound that are heard to imagine originating with a guitar or bass.

It open with controlled chaos, and clearly some kind of pedal manipulation from the sounds generated by… a guitar?

The lyrics are minimal–a simple repeat of “Why they hide they bodies under my garage?”  These lyrics are repeated, more frenetically with the “music” just squeals of feedback and noise.  The song doesn’t seem to change much, but there are subtle (if that’s the right word) changes in noise and intensity for four minutes until the song sorta stops and then resumes with even more intensity.  It drops out again, but by 6 minutes the song has built to epic intensity, with interesting sounds in between “chants.”

There is pretty much nothing to this song and yet it is amazingly intense.  And not for the faint of heart.

This song is from an earlier compilation release but is getting reissued on their soon to be released EP.  (You can get a lot of their early stuff from their bandcamp site).

The video is creepy as anything too:

You can also hear the original by Blawan, which is similar without the building intensity, I tend to think that Girl Band has done this song a real service.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KL_Bbyi3ub8

[READ: December 20, 2014] Blacksad: A Silent Hell

I had gotten the latest Blacksad book at work, so I looked to see if I could find the earlier editions. I couldn’t find the first book right away so I decided to dive in with this book.  It is the second collection, but is apparently the fourth book.  The first collection, simply titled Blacksad collects the first three books together.  The books were originally written in French and were translated by Katie LaBarbera.

I don’t know how much if any introduction there is in that first book, so there’s no context for why these animals are people or people are animals.  And I rather hope there isn’t one.  It’s just a great world where everyone looks human except that their heads are a (very realistic) animal shape.  In fact speaking of realistic, the artwork by Guarnido is amazing–perfectly noir with incredible realism and gorgeous colors (all done with watercolors, I believe).

This book opens with Blacksad, a private investigator, and Weekly, a reporter, at a strip club.  (It is disconcerting that the stripper is a leopard woman and that she is really hot (thankfully, it’s only shown from the back because that would get weird).  Weekly is super psyched but Blacksad has other things on his mind.  They are supposed to be meeting Junior Harper but he ain’t showing.

The pull back shows that we are in New Orleans. Continue Reading »

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