Sarah Neufeld is best known as the violinist for Arcade Fire. I wanted to like this disc more than I did. There’s a lot of really good music and ideas, but the whole album felt a little lacking in excitement.
This solo album was recorded in Berlin by pianist and producer Nils Frahm, with Neufeld’s performances captured in a number of locations with site-specific acoustics, including an abandoned geodesic dome, an underground parking garage, and the legendary Studio P4 orchestral recording hall at the broadcast complex of the former GDR.
On track with a * you can hear the echo of the surroundings (although I’m not sure which is which).
*”Tower” is a repeat of three notes quickly bowed with an echoed ghostly voice floating over the top of the melody. Its lasts but 2 minutes and then disappears. “Hero Brother” has repeated low notes flanked by high notes until the main fast riff spirals out. About a minute in, a stomping drum comes in and her playing sounds a bit more folksy. It’s an interesting twist on the more formal earlier style. I love that it ends almost starkly in the middle, allowing those last notes to resonate.
*”Dirt” begins with high pitches notes that seem to echo and resonate forever. And then she switches to a spritely somewhat upbeat melody of quick notes. The third part of the song luxuriates in slow bowing—long notes that linger. “You are the Field” begins slowly with some bending notes that descend and then ascend. It’s interesting to hear her slide up and down the neck while some of the main notes remain the same.
*”Breathing Black Ground” has slow echoed note, but about mid way through a low note anchors the pieces as the high notes play a melancholy melody while Nils Frahm plays the harmonium. “They Live On” is primarily plucked strings until her echoed voice sails over the top. This piece is more pretty than the others but is still rather stark.
“Wrong Thought” has a kind of sci-fi sound as it opens. A kind of piercing high note is resolved into some lowers notes and then a cool melody. The ending few notes are a pretty series that rise from the darkness of the main piece. “Right Through” is a series of three notes played in different location on the fret. It is lonely sounding until some higher notes begin to appear as well. And then Sarah’s ghostly voice emerges from the background with a kind of haunted phrasing. It’s quite lovely and then things become quite raucous with some very fast fiddling.
“Forcelessness” opens with a series of three high pitches notes that are quite breathtaking. The notes descend slowly through the melody as a piano plays long held notes to accent the descent. It’s by far my favorite on the disc. The disc ends with *”Below” which is slow and melancholy with her voice echoing in.
I guess I was expecting there to be more virtuoso pieces rather than a kind of moody ambient record. Most of the melodies are pretty, but there’s not a lot of diversity.
[READ: February 12, 2016] Rollergirl
Oh boy, did I love this story. And not just because it’ about roller derby (although that is quite a lot of it). I loved it because it had a protagonist who felt she didn’t have a personality or a “thing” and managed to not only get one, but to get an unsuaul one–and to make friends doing it
This story is a bout Astrid Vazquez (an unlikely name if ever there was). Astrid’s mom always wants her and her best friend, Nicole, to do cultural things. So they go to museums, to the opera, poetry readings, that sort of thing. It’s not always fun. But on this night she takes them to a warehouse where the see a roller derby match!
Astrid (who loves to wear black and is the tomboy of the two) is hooked immediately. Nicole, who is more prissy and does ballet, is interested but a little freaked out. And when they discover that there is a roller derby camp for the summer. Astrid assumes they will both sign up and become derby superstars like their new heroine Rainbow Bite (is there anything better than roller derby names?).
But Nicole quietly informs her that she is not doing that. Not only doesn’t she want to but she actually wants to go to ballet camp this summer. So there.
And that’s when the opening scene where Nicole is with the horrible, awful, super mean Rachel. Rachel is the one who came up with the nickname Ass-turd (which maybe makes this not so much a children’s book, but it’s the only bad part).
The one unbelievable part of the book is that Astrid doesn’t tell her mom that Nicole is not doing the camp. This is especially unbelievable because there is supposed to be some kind of carpooling situation going on. I just find it hard to believe that Astrid’s mom never found out and that Astrid would want to keep it a secret for so long.
But that’s neither here nor there. Because Astrid is ready to take on the roller derby experience! (She needs to learn how to roller skate first though, right?)
When she gets to practice she is the youngest and the only one who can’t skate great And her coach, Heidi Go Seek, doesn’t let up on her for a second. Speaking of Heidi Go Seek, there’ a whole page of the names of the team members and Astrid has to think of a great one by the time of her first match.
By the end of the first practice, Astrid is wiped out. And then she realizes she has to walk home–an hour, in the hot summer sun–because there is no carpool.
But she sticks with it and everyone applauds her for returning the second day. And she even starts to get a little better (although not at stopping). She eventually gets the courage to skate home (which cuts her time in half).
The older girls are all friendly with themselves, but there is one younger girl Zoey, who befriends Astrid quite easily. Zoey is a good, but not great skater and she is outgoing because she has several younger brothers in her family. Her house (when Astrid visits) is chaotic but fun. Zoey even convinces her to dye her hair and be more crazy. And soon enough Astrid is taking on the bigger girls (and usually losing, but at least she is trying!)
Then one practice, Heidi tells them that at an upcoming meet the summer camp skaters are going to be skating a demonstration derby during halftime–as a way to get people to learn about the camp for young girls. Astrid is beside her self that she may get to be a jammer! (The jammer is the only person who can score points–thankfully, the book gives all the rules you need to know to understand the sport–in basics and friendly instructions.)
But what happens if she doesn’t get to be a jammer? Will she still be a team player? Will she alienate her new best friend and everyone else on the team because she is being a brat about it? And what about Nicole? Astrid’s mom is sure to find out the truth, right?
And what happens when she runs into Nicole AND Rachel at the mall?
It’s so much for a 12-year-old to deal with. Can Rainbow Bite offer sage advice and an autograph?
I really enjoyed this book a lot and I loved it even more once I saw that Jamieson herself is a roller derby player who goes by Winnie the Pow!
Oh and the illustrations are great. They are simple and really expressive–the kind of artwork that I enjoy best in a graphic novel.
And get this, Tabitha loved this book so much that we bought her a copy. We are desperate to get to roller derby match in person. We actually drove to Bethlehem to watch a match by Two Rivers Roller Derby, but the weather was terrible and we got there just as the match ended. But everyone was super nice and encouraging, so we’ll try to make their last home game of the season.