Efrim Manuel Menuck was a co-founder of Godspeed Your Black Emperor and the main force behind A Silver Mt. Zion. In some ways it seems odd that he would release a solo album, but I guess Silver Mt Zion is enough of a collective for him to want to do his own thing. Efrim has been singing a lot more on Silver Mt Zion records, and I find his voice to walk a fine line between interesting and annoying–well, not so much annoying as inappropriate to the music he makes. For this solo disc, though, there’s something different about the music that works well with his voice. There’s eight songs on the disc. Some of them are pretty much unlistenable, but others are really enjoyable. The opener “our lady of parc extension and her munificent sorrows” is 7 minutes long and has the kind of epic feel of his previous bands, but there’s a lot more keyboard (making cool space sounds). Meanwhile, “a 12-pt. program for keep on keepin’ on” is described as a “hauntingly processed field recordings and ominous tape-delayed sound-sculpture.” That’s true for the first minute or so, but after that it’s mostly just an unpleasant cacophony…that lasts nine minutes! And while it’s great that it was all done with analogue equipment, that doesn’t make it any more listenable.
“august four, year-of-our-lord blues” is a much more enjoyable instrumental, slow vibrated notes, a real western sound. Efrim sings again on “heavy calls & hospital blues” and his angsty, hesitant voice works very well on this piano ballad. “heaven’s engine is a dusty ol’ bellows ” is a 2 minute instrumental/introduction that sounds a lot like the guitar opening from Radiohead’s “Electioneering.” “kaddish for chesnutt” is a slow, mournful dirge. It’s quite moving. It’s 7 minutes long, and the length is saved by the second half where the chanted vocals bring the song back from the edge.
“chickadees’ roar pt. 2” is mostly feedback noises and squeaks. It’s less unpleasant than other instrumentals, but it’s not something you’d seek out. Although it does work as an introduction to the closer: “i am no longer a motherless child.” After about 2 minutes of dissonant introduction, the group begins singing an uplifting ending hymn.
So this boils down to a self-indulgent solo project, with a few tracks that are among his best. You can stream it here.
[READ: May 22, 2012] “Mrs Blue”
I really enjoyed Joshua Ferris’ first novel. So I thought I’d see what else he had written. He has a number stories published but most of them are unavailable for free reading at this time. Thanks to my JSTOR account I was able to read this one from The Iowa Review.
This was pretty confusing story–and since its one of his first, I don’t really know what else to compare it to in his work. There’s all kinds of disturbing images and as you delve more deeply into the story, the images turn more disturbing but in different ways.
It opens with a youngish boy being seduced by Mrs Blue, a teacher in his school. He warns her about the dangers of unprotected sex and she says that she’s the one who convinced the PTA to hire the guy who gave the lecture, so she knows all about it. He’s 13 and he keeps telling her he doesn’t want to (her locations of choice include under a railroad car and in a burned out building). Each paragraph or so is set off by a star, indicating a new section. So section 2 has the narrator and Gus (friend? brother?) go to the track where Mrs Blue runs laps. Gus walks his dog, Mr Yackley, while the narrator (whose name is Woodrow Williams) talk about Cole Porter and how she’s looking for a new “daddy.”
The third section introduces a new character, Burke Hapsburg, the man who fell from the sky. He is a superhero who is being chased by Mustafa’s mercenary henchmen. At the same time Woodrow’s sister (apparently) Cheyne locks herself in her room while his brother Macky locks himself in his own room.
Macky asks Woodrow if he has read the graffiti about Cheyne (it consists of amusing/irreverent puns about Cheyne’s pussy (it’s my Wailing Wall, it’s the Sermon on the Mound, etc).
Later, in 4th period gym (I love the joke that their gym game is Supervisors and Workers, where Mr Karlsbad’s favorite kids are the Supervisors, and the less favorite are the Workers (who have to pick up all of the balls that the supervisors throw around). Mrs Blue interrupts the class to pull Woodrow out. He tells Mr Karslbad that his dad has MS. Karlsbad bonds with because his wife has MS, too.
Several times during the story, Woodrow’s doorbell rings (his parents are never seen) and everyone ignores it (except Mr Yackley). The kids also have really no food at all, and seem to be on their own entirely. It’s also not clear that anything that we’ve read has really happened at all. There is a scene of confrontation at the end of the story which raises more questions that it resolves. I enjoyed most of the parts of this story, I’m just not sure that I enjoyed it overall.