Notice that the band’s name has gotten longer. That could be because they have added three new members (which means they are slowly growing to be the size of GYBE anyway). In addition to Efrim, Thierry and Sophie, there is now Becky Foon on cello, Ian Ilavsky on guitar and organ and Jessica Moss on violin (all Constellation stalwarts).
The first song is the nine minute “Sisters! Brothers! Small Boats of Fire Are Falling From the Sky!” Echoed drum sounds slowly grow louder before a slow violin plays a mournful melody. But with the new members, there is now a cello to accompany the violin, making this album sound even more classical. Three minutes in, the piano takes over (and the strings slowly fade). The piano is a bit prettier and more accomplished sounding (even if it has only been a year since the last album). Despite the addition of all of the extra instruments, the song still veers pretty far from GYBE territory. It feels very acoustic (what with the piano), and while the song is repetitive it never feels like it is epic or building towards something–it just grows bigger and more beautiful as more instruments enter the mix.
“This Gentle Hearts Like Shot Bird’s Fallen” opens with what sounds like bird noises, but may actually be a child. The song is primarily echoed guitars which lay a foundation over which the violins and cellos play slow mournful notes. The song grows as more instruments play along, including some gentle percussion, and it all seems to end too soon.
“Built Then Burnt [Hurrah! Hurrah!]” is a spoken piece. Efrim doesn’t recite the words–it sounds like a child (but may be a young woman). The reading is dramatic and works very well with the slowly building strings that comprise the bulk of this song.
Why are we all so alone here
All we need is a little more hope, a little more joy
All we need is a little more light, a little less weight, a little more freedom.
Good words, strong words, words that could’ve moved mountains
Words that no one ever said
We were all waiting to hear those words and no one ever said them
And the tactics never hatched
And the plans were never mapped
And we all learned not to believe
And strange lonesome monsters loafed through the hills wondering why
And it is best to never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever wonder why
As that song fades, the aggressive strings of “Take These Hands and Throw Them in the River” take over. This song features Efrim singing in full voice–the recognizable voice of SMtZ. On this song his voice is processed and echoed and so the strange timbre of his voice doesn’t quite register because it sounds so…unusual anyway. I really enjoy the way this song sounds so much bigger than the rest. At around 4 minutes, while the song begins to build –both instrumentally and vocally, new strings bring more intensity until the whole thing just fades away to the sounds of actual birds which chirp for about 2 minutes.
“Could’ve Moved Mountains…”is eleven minutes long and shows incredible restraint, especially in the vocals. It opens with slow bass notes. The whispered spoken vocals return and the song is kind of ominous.. About three minutes in quiet harmony vocals accompany him and soon after, strings are added and continue to grow louder. The instrumental section is quite pretty although still melancholy. Around 8 minutes in, a guitar riff begins playing a similar melody to the strings. It plays for a bit and then the strings rejoin the song, playing a more hopeful melody. The song ends with some kids talking and singing as the song melds into….
“Tho You Are Gone I Still Often Walk W/You” This song opens with piano and cello, a sad intro indeed. I like that after a minute the song jumps keys unexpectedly while keeping the rhythm otherwise the same. The song doesn’t vary much from this simple piano and strings feel although it ebbs and flows in intensity.
“C’monCOMEON (Loose An Endless Longing)” breaks the melancholy of the previous son with a big buzzy electric guitar chord. Strings eventually come in and the song builds and builds, complete with interesting percussion. This song is probably the closest to a GYBE song with a dramatic build and very satisfying chord progressions. When the fast bass notes kick in around 3 minutes it seems like the song is going to grow even faster, but instead, it fades away to some ringing chimes–what sounds like a giant echo chamber (a really neat effect). That calm is broken by a series of horns playing one note at a time, louder and louder (this whole middle section reminds me of the middle of “Atom Heart Mother” by Pink Floyd–in fact I have found a number of comparisons to some of Floyd’s trippier moments on this and other albums). And then the drums come crashing back in. It’s a very different song that resumes–loud bass, lots of drums and everything mixed loud enough to distort the sound.
The final song is “The Triumph of Our Tired Eyes.” It opens with guitar harmonics and Efrim’s disatnat voice. It’s a pretty and delicate song, joined by strings and a genuinely pretty vocal melody: “There’s beauty in this land, but I don’t often feel it.” And as the strings swell and swell, the voices sing the refrain: “musicians are cowards” over and over. The song and disc end on a surprisingly quiet and beautiful note.
When the songs ends, there’s a few seconds of children singing lyrics to the “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” melody although the words don’t fit like: “when we finally cross the barricade…”
I really like the way this album plays with the new style of music the band has embraced but also admits some of the strengths from pretty much everyone else’s other band.
[READ: April 4, 2016] The Importance of Being Earnest–The Graphic Novel
This play is one of the great plays in English literature. Oscar Wilde is at his best, writing witticism upon witticism–each line is a funny rejoinder to the previous one and the wit is infectious.
The story is fairly simple, but he adds so many twists that it’s almost easy to get lost in the story. In fact, it’s entirely possible that reading the play is a sure way to get lost in the deceptions. And that’s why this graphic novel is so excellent.
I’ve always maintained that it is difficult to “read” a play, especially if there are dozens of characters. The short, one act plays that I’ve been reading over the last years are fairly easy to follow, but when you have 20 named characters in three acts, it’s not always easy to keep people straight. And that’s why to really appreciate Shakespeare you need to see it. Well, this graphic novel effectively performs the play for us. The dialogue is exact and there are no changes from the original (except for any stage directions, which are left out of the text, but are presumably addressed in the art).
What’s (intentionally) confusing about this play is that the two main characters are trying to deceive other people about their identity. Algernon Moncrieff and John Worthing are two gentlemen–well off, single, clever. Algy talks about how he likes to go Bunburying. Which means he has “invented an invaluable permanent invalid called Bunbury, in order that I may be able to go down unto the country whenever I choose. …If it wasn’t for Bunbury’s extraordinarily bad health, I wouldn’t be able to dine with you.” This comes up because John has informed Algy that he “has always pretended to have a younger brother of the name Ernest, who lives in the [city] and who gets into the most dreadful scrapes.”
They have lies in common: each man lies to a group about a phony other person whom they use as an excuse for bad behavior. (they are old friends as well, of course).It turns out that John wishes to marry Gwendolen, a woman who is in fact Algy’s cousin. Algy’s aunt is on hand to question John about his origins. After initially coming across well, he reveals that he does not know who his parents are–he was left in a bag in a train station. Algy’s Aunt is appalled saying she can’t allow a nice girl like Gwen “to marry into a cloak-room and form an alliance with a parcel.”
But John is not deterred. He reveals his country house address to Gwen in hopes that she will come by. Algy (who has never been invited to John’s country house, writes down the address). He wants to go to the country house because John has spoken so well of his ward, Cecily. And so with address in hand, Algy heads off to the country and introduces himself to Cecily as Ernest, John’s brother (whom no one has ever seen). She is excited to finally meet the man she has heard so much about.
Of course, John arrives unexpectedly, but he can’t reveal the truth of the situation. For a time, they are able to play off the idea that Algy is really Ernest, but when Gwen shows up, all chaos unleashes. Ultimately both women become fast friends but reveal to the men that could conceive of marrying these two, but only if they were actually named Ernest instead of John or Algy. The latter is described as “a rather aristocratic name, half of the chaps who get into the bankruptcy court are called Algernon.”
Misunderstandings abound, and all manner of difficulties regarding marriages are introduced and it is all very good fun. But the best part is the dialogue which could be quoted at length because it is so funny (but from which I’ll refrain). And Wilde resolves some threads very nicely too.
The graphic aspect is wonderful. The characters are perfectly drawn and really convey what kind of actors might have played the roles. But even more impressive is the background art, which is computer generated and rotoscoped allowing lovely views of gardens and houses.
It’s a tremendous way to read this play, and I pleased to see that the publisher Classical Comics has released a number of full text books (they also have Quick Text books for cheaters) including Frankenstein, Jane Eyre, A Christmas Carol, Great Expectations, Wuthering Heights The Canterville Ghost, Dracula, Sweeney Todd and the Shakespeare plays Macbeth, Romeo & Juliet, The Tempest, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
If you love Downton Abbey and the witticisms of the Dowager Countess, this is must read.