Elfin Saddle continues their streak of oddly juxtaposed music that works very well. The band specializes in a kind of Middle Eastern folk music (there’s a lot of Jewish-style singing), but with Emi Honda singing Japanese-style vocals it really alters the overall sound. They also use a lot of raw sounding “instruments” many of which are found or quite simply, junk. Check out the instrumentation list: Jordan McKenzie: voice, guitar, half-accordion, drums, varied percussion, membrane pipes, organs, piano, pvc processing, tapes, phonographs, speakers, etc. Emi Honda: voice, ukulele, drums, half-accordion, musical saw, extra percussion. It’s that extra percussion and etc. that you hear a lot, rattling around in the background of these songs.
They play complex rhythms (with lots of low end drumming) underneath ethereal noises (music boxes and the like). And all the while, Honda and McKenzie trade off their unusual vocals. It’s mesmerizing. When the band really starts rocking, like in “The Changing Wind” you hear how well it all works together, and how well the two play off each other. The slower pieces, like “Boats” are very cinematic, probably because everything sounds so real–you can see the items that are making these odd sounds.
The music is definitely not pop, but with just a listen or two, you can really appreciate what they’re doing. If you like your folk a little noisy or your rock a little experimental, this is a great record to check out.
[READ: January 13, 2013] The Seamstress and the Wind
Things that I have said about every book of Aira’s that I have read: they are all short, he writes a lot of books (according to Wikipedia he has written at least 45 books since this one came out about twenty years ago), and they are all nonlinear.
And so it is with this 130 page book.
As the book opens, a young boy named César Aira is playing with his friend in the back of their neighbor Chiquito’s truck. They are playing a game of ghosts when suddenly, César finds himself walking in a trance back to his house. Turns out his friend Omar couldn’t find him for hours (and when César snaps out of it, indeed hours have passed). And yet, despite this story, it turns out that really Omar is missing (what? who knows?). Omar is the son of the local seamstress, Delia Siffoni. She is sewing a wedding dress for the art teacher, Silvia, who is (scandalously) pregnant. When she hears that her son is missing, she freaks out and calls out a search party.
She concludes that Omar was hiding in Chiquito’s truck when he left for Patagonia. So she takes a taxi to chase after Chiquito. Since the dress is due to be finished right away, she takes it and her supplies with her in hopes of finishing it on the road. When Ramón, Delia’s husband realizes what she has done, he chases after her. And when Silvia realizes that her dress is driving away in a taxi she follows Ramón. And so it becomes a road novel in which none of the characters are together.
By the end of the story there has been a terrible accident with a taxi crashing into a truck. There has been a poker game where one of the two women has been lost in a bet (unbeknownst to her) and we have met The Wind (Sir Ventarrón) who helps the seamstress with her problems. Indeed, Sir Ventarrón becomes an integral part of the story, including a flashback when Sir Ventarrón assisted a snowman in his quest for eternal life (yes).
This is no ordinary story, and indeed, that much of a plot outline barely covers what goes on in the story. My favorite sequence in the story is when Ramón discovers a gigantic armadillo shell. It is so large that he is able to fit the parts from the smashed car underneath it and drive it down the road (backwards of course, so that he can see out of the tail hole). It is surreal and cinematic and I’d love to see an animated version of this story. There’s also a wonderful sequence that takes place in the back of Chiquito’s truck–a practically slapstick sequence in which Delia gets lost in the maze of rooms that are in the back of his cab. And, who could forget the sequence where the “car” that is chasing Ramón proves to be a butterfly wing on his sideview mirror.
As with other Aira books, the plot is not really a plot. It sets the action in motion, but you won’t really get any kind of conclusion out of those actions. For Aira, the beauty is in the details–little moments, gorgeous sentences, thoughtful sequences. These books read like meditations or diary entries–things don’t always make sense, but it’s a wonderful journey to have taken.
The beginning of the book, along with some sections of the middle has an authorial voice–Aira says that he has been trying to write a story called The Seamstress and The Wind. They are odd moments of metafiction that seem out of place give credence to the idea that Aira simply writes whatever is in his head and doesn’t revise. They also lend the story more of that diary quality I mentioned. They are strange moments but they almost lend his entire output a kind of narrative flow. (Of course I’ve only read 7 of his possibly 100 books, so that may be stretching things to say that).
This book was translated by Rosalie Knecht, and she does a remarkable job. I imagine that Aira’s prose, while beautiful, is not the easiest to translate.
For ease of searching, I include: Cesar Aira, Ramon, Sir Ventarron