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Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Ontario Place Forum (May 30, 1992).

This is a short set with the band opening for Barenaked Ladies, just prior to the release of Whale Music.

It’s a pretty intense set what with Horses, Shaved Head, California and Queer–especially since they’re opening for BNL.

The beginning of “Aliens” is cut off, but it sounds great and the end of the song Clark throws in a really fast verse of “Tom Sawyer.”  Indeed, the whole show sounds great.

While introducing “Soul Glue,” Dave says “Ladies and gentlemen, Doctor Christopher Brown” he plays piano and keys and is the Canadian musician who has been around for years in various bands.  “Horses” sounds great with the whole band really into it.  “Shaved Head” is wonderfully intense until the very end when Clark starts singing “pray for me King George” for some reason.

Bidini says this is the first time they played Ontario Place and he thanks them for being very gentle.  Then Clark adds “Don’t forget to get up and wag your bums around folks or else you’re gonna get cold.”

Then there’s another great Martin song, “California Dreamline.”  Before the final song, they introduce each other (incorrectly) and also Brown and Lewis Melville on pedal steel.  And then they encourage everyone to make Ontario Place, “one big green sprouts music club.”  “Queer” sounds great and has a little slide guitar section (from Melville) and a piano section (from Brown) before seguing into the finale of the song.

I love this note added to the concert:

 This was the night that Rheos and BNL finished their show at Ontario Place and then all made their way to Clinton’s Tavern to join The Bourbon Tabernacle Choir onstage. That was the show where BTC started their final song People Get Ready with all members of the Bourbons on stage and then gradually they swapped out with other musicians until the song finally ended with none of the band onstage, only members of other bands.

[READ: August 28, 2016] “Creative Licentious”

I believe that this is an excerpt from a story called Instruction.  And while an excerpt is often unsatisfying in its incompleteness, I don’t think any more of this story would have made it any better.  In fact I found it too long as it was.

The basic premise is that artists are subject to all kinds of abuse.  George takes the abuses over the top and makes them repulsive–he fosters an “only the strong survive” type of attitude. In addition to producing a piece of art a week, students must also attend interviews, perform menial jobs, as well as carpentry and maintenance around the building.  They must also repair the stables and bury the dead horses at the rate of once per week.

If the story had ended there, I would have been amused by the excesses of the story but this was one of a dozen or so sections, each of which goes to the same extremism as the above (and more). (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: March 2017] The Organist

organistAfter really enjoying The Organist in 2015, the season ended and I hadn’t heard that there were going to be anymore.  So I stopped looking for them.  And then the other day I got an email reminding me about recent episodes.  Well, sure enough there had been an entire season last year and they were already part way through this year’s season.

So I’m playing some catch up here.  But they are timeless, so it’s okay.

Each cast has a section in brackets–this text comes from the Organist’s own site.  The rest is my own commentary.

The Organist is a free podcast from KCRW & McSweeney’s.  As of this writing, they are up to episode 82. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NONAME-Tiny Desk Concert #608 (April 3, 2017).

Noname (born Fatimah Warner) is a wrapper and crooner.  her voice is pretty and her demeanor is infectiously upbeat.  Although I don’t really love her songs, I find her attitude infectious.

The blurb says

It’s in the way she’s able to muster a smile while performing a heartbreaking tale of abortion. It’s those sometimes bleak, melancholy lyrics over brilliant, colorful production.

“Diddy Bop” is a strange mix of gentle music (delicate guitar lines from Brian Sanborn meld with synthesized flutes) and rather vulgar lines:  There’s a line “you about to get your ass beat” and lots of “my niggas” thrown around.  Phoelix (bass) sings a verse as well.  The song is only two minutes long.

After it she says she has watched many Tiny Desk Concerts and she “Just wants to be as good as T-Pain.”

The second song is actually a medley.  It begins with “Reality Check” and then segues into “Casket Pretty,” and “Bye Bye Baby.”

She says “Reality Check” is her most straightforward song, but “it would be shitty if you were like ‘damn that made no sense either.'”  I normally speak “in like, scramble-think, so hopefully you guys follow it.” “Scramble-think” refers to the clever metaphors she weaves in detailing the many ways she’s dodged destiny.

Akenya Seymour (keys, vox) takes a verse in this song and Phoelix gets some backing vocals.

“Casket Pretty” is quite an evocative expression but she repeats the lyric an awful lot during the song.  The drums by Connor Baker are interesting throughout the set, but especially in this song.

She says that “Yesterday” is her favorite song on the tape.  It’s the first song she made.  It’s vulnerable and honest and she was surprised how much people liked it so she decided she had more sadness and vulnerability for her album.

[READ: January 20, 2017] “Constructed Worlds”

I enjoyed this story very much.  It is the story of a girl who is off to Harvard.  The story is set in the early 1990s–in the time of Discman and the beginning of e-mail.  It even opens with the fascinating line:

I didn’t know what e-mail was until I got to college. I had heard of e-mail, and knew that in some sense I would “have” it. “You’ll be so fancy,” said my mother’s sister, who had married a computer scientist, “sending your e-mails.”

The girl, Selin, has been hearing all about the World Wide Web from her father. He described that he was in the Met and one second later he was in Anitkabir in Ankara. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: AGNES OBEL-Tiny Desk Concert #598  (February 15, 2017).

Agnes Obel recently played a show near me, but it wasn’t until after I watched this show that I realized I should have gone to see her.

Agnes Obel, a Danish singer and writer of deeply alluring music, brought her work into what you could call its opposite — an office in the daylight. While the setting is a bit contrary to her carefully plotted, vocally dense songs, she mapped out a strategy which included her own reverb and monitor mix in the (successful, I think) hope of giving the Tiny Desk an aesthetic more suitable to these focused and powerful songs.

Obel plays three songs from Citizen of Glass alongside her band, keeping it sonically spare.  “It’s Happening Again” opens with fairly standard-sounding piano chords.  Then Obel’s voice kicks in and it’s unique–not weird, but with a cool almost detached delivery.  Accompanying her is a cellist and keyboardist.  They each sing backing vocals (along with a third backing vocalist).  When they all sing together, it is magical–sometimes creepy, sometimes beautiful.  The song builds to the end with all of the strings growing louder as the cello plays some wild, sliding sounds.  It is quite striking.

For “Golden Green,” the cellist switches to percussion (which is a kind of clacky ball that she throws in the air).  The main melody comes from the mellotron.  Once again when the backing vocalists kick, in everything is magical, especially the way the final note ends with a dramatic rise in pitch from all of the singers.

On “Stone,” the mellotron player switches to (electric) ukulele.  The melody comes from the uke and it is quite quiet until the chord when the cello and keyboard adds some deep bass notes that seem to overwhelm the room–quite dramatic and quite lovely.

[READ: December 1, 2016] Bandette Volume Three

Bandette Volume Three is just as much fun as books one and two.  It opens with Bandette getting shot at as she gives her little dog Pimento an important note for Daniel.  Daniel calls her and she proceeds to tell him about an upcoming heist (while she is still being shot at).  She says that there is a fabulous emerald on display.  An emerald that was once owned by Madame Presto: fabulist, mesmerist, woman of impudent morals.

And later that night (after she easily dispatches the bad guys) she goes to that special event and steals… a film about Madame Presto.

The next night several people (and a dog) are hit with sleeping darts from a new villain–Dart Petite. (more…)

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  SOUNDTRACK: DANA FALCONBERRY-Tiny Desk Concert #292 (July 29, 2013).

This Tiny Desk Concert introduced me to Dana Falconberry:

Dana Falconberry’s songs are gentle, almost invariably delicate, sometimes mysterious and frequently feather-light. But her music’s sweet, intricate softness never stands in for strength: This is a confident songwriter, whether she’s ambling through six- and seven-minute epics (“Leelanau,” “Dolomite”) or chirping sweetly in the bouncy “Crooked River.”

The compositions on Falconberry’s most recent album, last year’s Leelanau, are sturdy enough to be stripped down for a space like Bob Boilen’s desk at the NPR Music offices. But each benefits immeasurably from the broad assortment of lovely flourishes she re-creates here with the help of five instrument-swapping backing players. What makes Falconberry stand out in a crowded field of singer-songwriters is her music’s unfailing impeccability, and this Tiny Desk Concert finds her and her crack band hitting every immaculately crafted mark.

I tend to agree with the blurbs, but this one really is spot on: delicate, impeccable, sturdy.  These are words I would absolutely use to describe these songs.  I would also use fantastical–not suggesting that there might be fairies floating around during these songs, but it wouldn’t surprise me if one made an appearance.

“Dolomite” is a beautiful 7 minute song with many different sections.  Falconberry’s delicate (but not wimpy, it must be said) voice works perfectly with the capoed guitar she’s playing.  After the first verse, she’s joined by a cello, banjo and backing vocals, and the song builds.  Then after almost 2 minutes the bass and drums jump in and the song, while staying basically the same, gets a whole new feel (the bassline is staccato and unexpected while everything else is so smooth).  At around 3 and a half minutes the keyboards start adding these pretty little runs that make the song seem even more magical.  The middle of the song has the three female singers rotating through a  series of oohs and ahs as they make a cool-sounding fugue.

For “Crooked River,” the bassist switches to melodica.  Once again there’s a great sequence where each of the female singers sings one note in a very complex melody–it’s quite enchanting.  The cello is plucked giving the whole song a very different feel from the first.

Before the final song Bob asks if she has had any desk jobs.  She says she has had her fair share.  “I currently have a desk job…I hope. We’ll see when I get home.”

For Leelanau, the keyboardist switches to accordion, and there is prominent banjo and delicate melodica.  The verse is really quite catchy, and after the verse there is a gently rocking section where everyone joins together–it bursts forth in contrast to the rest.  It is repeated a few times throughout the song, and each one is more fun than the previous.  The middle has a kind of slow break down with the cello scratching and the melodica and accordion sounding like they are running out of breath.  Dana even hit’s Bob’s gong.  The accordion is even “breathing” without making a musical note.  The song returns to that super catchy verse and jam section and just as you think its going to fade to an end, there’s very cool chime that echoes and then a huge buildup to the conclusion.

I was so entranced by Falconberry’s music that I need to hear more of it.

[READ: September 19, 2016] Bandette 2

Two years ago I wrote about Bandette Volume 1: “The book was very exciting and sweetly charming as well.  I’m looking forward to Volume 2.”  And I waited and waited for it to come out.  I even saw Vol 1 the other day and wondered when we’d get volume 2.  Well, apparently this has been out since 2015, but the library just acquired it.  So I’m happy to say it’s not my fault it took two years for me to get around to reading it.

Even though I didn’t exactly remember how book 1 had ended, Tobin & Coover added a helpful “Previously” section to get us caught up.

The wit and charm of the first book is back in spades. Bandette continues to be seemingly immune to the world around her–she says what she wants and does what she wants and no resistance will get in her way–whether it is verbal sparring or her uncanny gravity-defying stunts.  Her love of chocolate remains as well, of course.  And the tone retains that agelessness.  It feels like this book could have been written in the 1950s but for the cell phones and scooters.

Chapter One reminds us that Bandette is a civilizan as well  She has dark hair and a love of pastries–she even gives the bakery owner priceless urn (from where) as payment for the delicious sweets. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK
: BATHS-Tiny Desk Concert 300 (September 4, 2013).

I was unfamiliar with Baths and I am impressed by their busy-ness in this set.  There are only two guys playing, both play with various computer gadgets and then switch to keyboards and guitars.  They layer more and more music on this fairly dancey and very electronic sound.

Baths, a.k.a. Will Wiesenfeld, plays mysterious and textured electronic music. When Wiesenfeld came to the Tiny Desk, I expected contemplative tones and a laid-back performance; he does, after all, call his project Baths. But what sets him apart from the vast majority of like-minded performers is that his music doesn’t get buried behind the buttons or lost in a hypnotic glaze.

Wiesenfeld is an extrovert live, and at the Tiny Desk, he sounds vibrant and compelling as he performs songs from this year’s Obsidian. His partner Morgan Greenwood, an accomplished music-maker in his own right, keeps the music dense but frees up Wiesenfeld to sing with few distractions; there’s a mind-meld between the two that’s undeniable. They’re not accustomed to playing in the light of day, but they enchant in this perfect introduction to their work.

Wisenfeld’s vocals are a lot of wordless sounds (ba ba ba, na na na) that get looped and mixed around.  He sings in a rather high register, especially when making the looped sounds.

“Miasma Sky” builds with layers upon layers of sounds and vocals.  The sounds are manipulated in great ways with those little knobs and sliders. And just as you think it’s going to end with a series of delicate synth and guitar notes, he begins looping them which create the building blocks for the rest of the song.   It’s primarily keyboards and glitchy drums until the end.

“Phaedra” begins with some heavy drums and them playing around with all their gadgets.  This is a fast, pumping, dancing song.  Greenwood sings backing vocals in an equally high register.

“Ocean Death” has deep thumping drums and an opening with lots of na na nas and la la las in a textually rich soundscape.  It all fades down o just drums before building back up again.

[READ: July 9, 2016] Ruins

Seven years ago I read a book called Diario de Oaxaca, a sketchbook by Peter Kuper that I really enjoyed.  When I grabbed this book of the shelf the other day I didn’t realize it was the same guy.  But I can see that that sketchbook informed this excellent graphic novel.

The Diario covered his two-year stay in Oaxaca where he drew a lot, studied insects (and saw the monarch butterflies) and experienced both chaos and contentment.

This fictionalized account of the story places two characters into a situation that sounds similar to what he experienced, but with enough difference to keep it purely fictional. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PINEGROVE-Tiny Desk Concert #582 (December 2, 2016).

I recently saw Pinegrove live and it was a great experience.  Although it was only a few months after this Tiny Desk Concert, it’s pretty amazing how different the band sounded during these two shows.

Pinegrove are sometimes referred to as having a country flair.  And they certainly do here (they really didn’t when I saw them–they rocked pretty loud and hard).  For this set, the guitar is often slide, the banjo is prominent and the songs are quieter.

But rather than countryside (which would not have attracted me at all), I like the term that the blurb uses:

The New Jersey group’s sound feels fresh and scrappy at the same time.

Evan Stephens Hall and drummer Zack Levine, who’ve been friends since they were 7, form the core of Pinegrove: Evan Stephens Hall (vocals, guitar); Nandi Rose Plunkett (keyboard, vocals); Zack Levine (drums, vocals); Adan Feliciano (bass); Sam Skinner (banjo, guitar); Josh Marre (guitar, vocals).  I was delighted to hear that (Hall and Levine’s dads play music together, too (in a band called Julie’s Party)).

It’s interesting that they play two older songs and only two from Cardinal, the album that was garnering most of their attention.  The first two are earlier tracks

“Need” is a slow folkie song that begins quietly but after a minute bursts into a wonderful full band sound (they sounded really full when I saw them too).  Many of the Pinegrove song are short–this one is only 2 minutes.  “Angelina” is a pretty rocking song (live it was a really rocking).  It appears to have been a new song recorded for their release of their collected works.  Here its a solid catchy song but is again only a minute and half long–barely getting started when it ends.

There’s a strange edit cut after this song before “Old Friends” starts–not sure what it means (what did they cut?)  But they launch right into “Old Friends” and its notable opening.  This snog is just outstanding the way it feel like there’s no real melody in the beginning, but it’s all there and quite subtle.  And then there’s the powerful chorus where it all comes together.  This version is really quite different–prominent banjo, a slide on the acoustic guitar and outstanding backing vocals.  They even do a cool thing with the ‘as if I needed a reminder’ section in which it goes an octave up–which I like quite a lot.  “Waveform” is a slower song on Cardinal (and seems even slower here–I love how they play off their surroundings).  The harmonies are really great on this one.

The whole set is a great introduction to the band, although seeing them live is a very different experience again.

[READ: June 20, 2016] Awkward

Sarah brought this book home as well and it looked fun.  And so it proved to be.

The title is a little overused at this point but it proves to be rather accurate for the story.  It follows Penelope (Peppi for short) as she starts her first day at a new school.  While in the hallway, she trips over her own feet in front of just about everyone.  There is much laughter until a boy comes over to help her.  But as soon as he does there is even more laughter as the mean boys chant that “Nerder found a new girlfriend.”

She was utterly humiliated and acted out in the worst way possible–she got mad at the boy who helped her.  She pushed him away and shouted Leave Me Alone!  And as she looked back she says “I will never forget the look on his face.”

The story quickly jumps to weeks later.  She has some friends n the art club, where she feels very comfortable, but she is still really sorry about what she did to this boy.  She wants to say she’s sorry to him, but she can’t bring herself to do it. (more…)

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