I really enjoyed Esmerine’s previous record–it was a delightful surprise from a band I didn’t know. Since then, they have put out two albums. Dalmak is a Turkish verb with many connotations: to contemplate, to be absorbed in, to dive into, to bathe in, to rush into, to plummet.
The album was recorded in Istanbul and after laying down the basic tracks, they added local musicians who contributed some great sounding Middle eastern and Turkish instruments–bendir (a drum), darbuka (another kind of drum), erbane, meh, barama and saz (a stringed instrument)–on tracks 2, 3, 4, 6, and 7.
“Learning to Crawl” opens the disc and consists of 3 minutes of beautiful swirling cellos and violins that create a wonderful atmosphere. “Lost River Blues Pt 1” comes in next and it changes the whole tenor of the album with the first of the Turkish instruments. The marimba keeps a musical rhythm as the other droning instruments play layers of music–creating an unexpected tension. The repetitions of the rhythm is a wonderful undercurrent to the lovely cello and violin that play washes of music over the top. Their melody adds a great deal of drama. It is a 7 minute song and once it’s over it jumps right into “Lost River Blues Pt 2.”
Part 2 opens with some stringed instruments playing a great middle eastern melody alternating with some loud choruses of instruments. The song grows quiet in the middle and the flute like instrument (the meh?) plays a melody before all of the drums kick in again (there are so many drums) the song grows more intense.
“Barn Board Fire” opens with some Middle Eastern strings again (the saz, I gather) and a simple two note bass to back in up. When the drums kick in the song really feels full. There’s a cello solo that runs throughout the song and it’s quite lovely. When the cello matches the rest of the music, there’s few measures that play with loud and soft and it’s quite cool. It builds to a raucous ending before echoing out
“Hayale Dalmak” opens with some waves of keyboards, almost like a new age song. it works as something of an intermission before the intense cello melody of “Translator’s Clos Pt 1.” This time the first part is the shorter one, as the drums and cello play a great melody and rhythm together. Again, it’s so scenic and evocative. It builds to a great closure before switching to Pt 2 which opens with a great percussion intro (I need to know how they made those popping sounds). This part is a little slower than the first, although the drums are still pretty intense. In fact, even though there is a lot of cello in this song, the drums are really the highlight with all kinds of awesome percussion going on. The middle of the song introduces the first vocals on the record–I assume they are in Turkish or Persian.
“White Pine” sounds like a western melody played on an Eastern instrument and a mournful violin played over the top. It’s a neat twist. The final track “Yavri Yavri” opens with glockenspiel and strings. The song swirls around before vocals come in again. It stays like this for five or so minutes–always remaining somewhat mellow but never easy.
I really enjoyed this album. And it gets better with each listen–the combination of Western and Eastern instruments works so well in these songs. And of course, Becky Foon and Bruce Cawdron write some amazing melodies as well.
[READ: February 20, 2016] Sculptor
I know Scott McCloud from his excellent Understanding Comics, which does a great job in explaining how comics work to novices but also shows keen insight for fanboys as well.
I never really considered that he had created his own comics (even though the above book is also full of his drawings). He had created a series called Zot!, but really not all that much more.
The premise of this book is fairly simple, but the details and twists and the psychological depth are really staggering. As is the beauty of McCloud’s drawing.
David Smith (no, not that David Smith, the other one) is a young sculptor. He had a bit of success right out of art school but the fickle market and his terrible temper shut down his career pretty quickly. In the meantime, he has lost pretty much all of his family (his sister died very young from an unspecified illness) and now David is alone in New York, about to lose his lodging. He is celebrating his 26th birthday by getting hammered by himself in a diner.
And that’s when his Uncle Harry happens by. He sits with David and they catch up. And it’s only after looking at old photos and talking about old times that David remembers the last time he saw Uncle Harry was at Harry’s funeral. What?
After some intense scenes, dead Uncle Harry is able to offer David a deal. David says he would give his life for his art. And Uncle Harry is willing to make that deal. And thus, David will have an amazing artistic gift thrust upon him, but he will have only 200 days to live.
The gift is that he will be able to sculpt anything–any material from steel to stone, using his hands and his mind.
One of my favorite scene in the book involves an angel. David is completely down. He is miserable walking down the street. He tries to get past a group of slow-movie pedestrians when they all turn on him and stare. And then an angel floats down, kisses him and disappears. What I love about the story is that David’s gift and the visit from his dead Uncle Harry are all surreal and supernatural, but the whole angel scene–which is the most amazing–of all is actually explained later in the book.
Over the next few days he creates hundreds of amazing pieces (the scene in his studio is wonderful) and the stories behind them are hilarious and poignant. And while David would love to show them, there is just too much–it all appears unfocused. His friend, the art appraiser knows that it can’t sell as it is. This friend is his oldest friend in the world, they’ve known each other since they were little. And there are some interesting stories that go on between them.
Meanwhile, David sees “the angel” and can’t believe that she might be real.
Despite David’s gift (and now incredible skill) he still can’t actually sell anything, so he winds up losing everything. And here’s the other thing about David. He is principled–too principled. He won’t take charity (even though he clearly needs it)–like he won’t even let someone buy him a coffee. He also promised that he won’t do about 36 other things–and once he make as promise, he keeps it.
So David is more or less homeless when “the angel” comes to his rescue. This angel’s name is Meg and he falls in love with her hard. She is an actor (and is really strikingly drawn, I must say). And she has a kind of magical force field around her which seems to make everyone fall in love with her (and her exes all stick around). But she has a dark secret as well.
David’s time is running out although now he has things to live for. But he also can’t tell her about the deal he has made.
How can he spend his remaining days? And what kind of statement will he try to make with his art. Without spoiling anything, the public sculptures that David makes are outstanding and I love that there’s even debate in the story about whether what he is doing is art or vandalism.
This was an amazing story of creativity (both David’s and McClouds) that pulls no punches when it comes to human emotions.
And just when you think the punch of the story isn’t enough, if you read McCloud’s afterword about the origins of the story, it will hit you even harder.
This is an outstanding book and McCloud’s artwork is so fantastic–his shading and crosshatching are phenomenal) that anything else he does is surely worth seeking out.
Thanks to First Second’s #10yearsof01 for getting me to read this large book (400+ pages) sooner rather than later.