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Archive for the ‘Alex Puvilland’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: KING GIZZARD AND THE LIZARD WIZARD-Live from Gizzfest (December 1, 2018).

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard are such a big deal in their native Australia, that they have created their own festival called, naturally, Gizzfest.  It began in 2015 as a touring festival with a dozen or so bands.  2018’s festival was only one day (in Melbourne) and some kind soul recorded it and posted the KGATLW set online.

The set lasted for about an hour and 40 minutes and touched on nearly every release.  It even included a few never before played live tracks from Eyes Like the Sky!

The recording quality isn’t great and you can hear a lot of people talking through the set.  It sounds like it might be pretty far away from the speakers as well.  Having said that, the music isn’t hard to hear (it’s not like it was recorded at a low level) it’s just not very clean.  Having said THAT, it’s not like KGATLW are an especially clean band, since they are often shrouded in fuzz, echo, distortion and more.

The songs are not chronologically played.  In fact, they start right in the middle with I’m in Your Mind Fuzz.  They play the first two tracks, “I’m in Your Mind” and “I’m Not in Your Mind” seamlessly together, including the nifty solos throughout “Not.”

But they do not play the third song (which segues on the album).  Rather, they jump right to Murder of the Universe with “The Balrog.”  It’s an intense start to the show and after a little breather they play the far slower and very delightful “Stressin'” from Oddments.  Unfortunately, the recording is very quiet and more muddy for this song.  Not sure what happened there.

But things get much louder very quickly, as they jump to their then newest album Gumboot Soup.  They play only one song from the record, the totally rocking “The Great Chain of Being.”  To much celebration, they jump into Polygonswannaland’s “Crumbling Castle.”  All the elements are there and they sound great playing it (even if the audio quality isn’t great).  The song segues perfectly into the album’s final track, “The Fourth Colour.”

After all of that rocking, they slow things down but stick with Polygondwannaland with the groovy “Deserted Dunes Welcome Weary Feet” which segues into the middle section of that albums’s “Castle in the Air.”

Ambrose gets to the mic to say they’re gonna to do some silly stuff now.

“Dead-Beat” goes all the way back to their first EP, Willoughby’s Beach.  The really dumb lyrics “pull my finger and punch my face” are so much clearer here than on the album.  I wish I could hear if people are singing along.  Then they play a track from their first album 12 Bar Bruise “Cut Throat Boogie.”  This one is sung by Ambrose and features lots of his wailing harmonica.  Ambrose gets another lead vocal on another old-school one, Float Along–Fill Your Lung‘s “Let Me Mend the Past.”  It’s a respite of slower rock n roll with some nice piano accompaniment.

They play a surprising “Tezeta” from Mild High Club.  It’s slow and groovy with nice clear sound, although I can’t hear if there are any groovy backing vocals or not.

After these slower moments the band roars back with a wild “Rattlesnake” from Flying Microtonal Banana which whips the crowd into a sing-along frenzy.

And then they pause to introduce their special guest: Ambrose Kenny-Smith’s dad, Broderick Smith, writer and narrator of the Eyes Like the Sky album. Broderick does a great recitation and the band plays these rarely played Western songs perfectly: “Eyes Like the Sky,” “The Year of Our Lord” and “The Raid.”

They jump in with the opening to the jazzy wonderfulness of Quarters‘ “The River,” but they only play about 3 minutes of it, because as the band is quieting down during the slow bit (down down down) with the falsetto “a river” backing vocals, Stu starts singing the lyrics to “Wah Wah.”  For a few beats, the “a river” backing vocals continue, which is pretty cool.  “Wah Wah” rips louder and louder and as the song starts feedbacking out, the super fast drums of “Road Train” begin.  For this is the Nonagon Infinity portion of the show.    “Road Train” is the last song on Nonagon infinity so its fun that they do some nonagon infinity chants and then continue with “Robot Stop,” the first song of the infinite loop album.   It’s full of that spiraling guitar and wild harmonica solos.  But rather than seguing into the next song on the record they jump to the super catchy “Gamma Knife.”

The concert more or less ends with “Some Context,” the 46 second riff that’s a transitional piece on Murder.  That’s how they ended the show when I saw them.  It’s a great riff, too.  But they weren’t quite ready to end the show.

After some quiet, they began their 16 minute epic “Head On/Pill”  This version is certainly slower than the record, but it is still trippy.  It’s still got those soaring riffs and chanted vocals.  Things quiet down to almost a whisper around three minutes in, but by 4 minutes, the whole band kicks in for a truly rocking jam.  After nine minutes, they start a medley that begins with a rather quiet “Alter Me” which is more of a jam than the song.  Some more jamming leads to the opening of “Am I in Heaven?”  They end more or less with “Cellophane” which everyone can chant along to.

It’s basically a career spanning set in which they play songs from all of their fourteen releases (in FIVE YEARS), except for their folky Paper Mâché Dream Balloon.

Although the sound quality isn’t great, this is a fantastic show in front of a very happy hometown crowd.  When I saw them back in 2018 they focused primarily on the five albums they had released the year before with six songs from Murder of the Universe, 4 from Polygondwannaland, and 3 each  from Gumboot Soup and Flying Microtonal Banana.  I love that they can play such diverse sets–playing new songs for people who haven’t heard any of them and then playing a whole career’s worth for the locals.

How their sets can stay under two hours when they have that much music is still a mystery.  And yet no one leaves disappointed.

[READ: March 1, 2019] Spill Zone 2

I enjoyed Book 1 but I really didn’t like this part.  For some reason I thought this book had at least three parts.  But it seems that it has ended with book two which makes it all the more disappointing.

I didn’t even find the art to be evocative or charming.  It just felt kind of ugly an over the top.

As the book opens Addison goes to her art dealer and gets a million dollars. Of course she went to the buyer directly, cutting out the sketchy middleman.  And he is not happy about that, so he goes to the North Koreans with some information about Addison and her pictures.  Of course they have no time for bit players like him.

Meanwhile back in North Korea, Don Jae had entered the Spill Zone there and was having visions about the one in America.  He knew he had to go there.  He winds up visting the art buyer.  He gives her some of the radioactive dust so she can truly see what’s going on in the pictures she’s buying. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Fall Nationals, Night 7 of 10, The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (November 17, 2004).

The Rheostatics, live at the Legendary Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto, November 14, 2004. This was the 7th night of their 10 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe.

I compared all of the setlists from the nine shows and was somewhat surprised to see just how much repeating they did. Most of the rep

 Two versions are available – Mark Sloggett’s soundboard recording and 8 track files provided by Steve Clarkson.  The Sloggett download has 8 minutes of pre show intro music, which I assume is on the PA.  It starts out kind of synthy and cool then turns into piano music then a big horn-filled jazzy song then back to piano as mike starts playing some drums and that’s the official start of “Who Is This Man, And Why Is He Laughing?” even with the PA music still playing.   Despite this being guest vocalist night, this song is instrumental with accordion and clearly spoken Polish.

Martin says they’re not supposed to sing tonight so they’ll do an instrumental version of “Four Little songs.”  No one sings their verse, but Chris String on keyboards plays a lengthy sample: you gave this to, me but you cannot escape, not this time.”  They play the song really well without the vocals and for the end someone is ringing bells in tune.

Dave welcomes everyone to the 4th annual Fall Nationals and introduces their first guest vocalist Robin Lowe from Pittsburgh, PA.  She sounds great singing “Introducing Happiness.”  She’s followed by Melissa McClelland who asks, “Can I do something on this?” and someone jokes, “no don’t touch the keyboard.”  “Can I do some beat boxing on the mic?”  “Absolutely.”  She doesn’t beatbox but she sings a beautiful version of “Aliens (Christmas 1988).”  It’s a bit of a different vocal melody than martin sings and is quite wonderful.

Mike Bell comes out to sing “Beerbash” guessing that they haven’t done this in a while.  It’s rocking and fun/sloppy.   Then Paul Linklater and Donna Orchard
come out to sing “King Of The Past.”  Dave notes that “you guys sang separately last year.”  Which they did.  They do a kind of dramatic singing of the song which I think I like, but not as much as the original.

Dave says, “The beer is here and so is my adorable wife.”  Janet Morassutti who has co-written many songs sings “It’s Easy To Be With You.”  She has a good, deep voice and I love when she gets into the 1,2,3,4.

Kurt Swinghammer comes out and introduces the Trands-Canada Soul Patrol back in the house.  But Dave says they’re supposed to be backing Brenda Lee.  Kurt continues, “It’s time for a Tim Vesely song.  He’s sort of the George Harrison in the band.”  This brings forth three jokes at once including Dave saying he;s more of the George Foreman of the band.   They do “Loving Arms” and Dave says, “you’re lucky we did this last night.”  He sings in a deep and ponderous voice not sure it’s quiet right for this sweet song, but he does a great job with it.  The song ends but the give Kurt an extra solo.

Michelle Rumball comes out and says, “Dave do you know that the last time that I was supposed to sing this song, I showed up and only knew the backing vocals.”  Dave says, “I’ve never forgiven you for that.”  “It was like ten years ago.”  Then Dave notes “No one ever sings “Saskatchewan Part 2”  Michelle says, “next year?”  It’s slow and moody and she kind of messes up a bit but holds it together.  Chris Brown gets a keyboard solo.

Greg Smith of the Weakerthans recently.  He’s going to sing “The Tarleks” and they start asking him “what are you doing now that KRP shut down?”  He says he gets a lot of questions about Bailey Quarters–everybody liked her more than Loni Anderson.   There’s lots of wild synth stuff in the middle.

Chris Brown comes out for “Bad Time To Be Poor” and there’s some seriously off guitar to start the song, but they settle down and play along nicely.

Then they need to take a five-minute break to work on equipment.  Martins Steinberger guitar died.  It led a rich life and needs to go to the hospital.  Sorry about that.

Royal Wood sings a pretty version of “It” and then Steve Stanley puts the power back in “Power Ballad For Ozzy Osbourne” including the intro.  They say that he is currently in a band called Midi-Ogres.  At the end of the song, there’s sustaining feedback note–“make it stop make the bad man stop, stop the fucking note, Mike.”  While they’re fixing that, Chris plays a sample:, “I’ve been practicing every day for a year.  I can’t even learn a piece in a week.  When will I learn to play real good?  How long does it take?”

Jen Foster sings “Take Me In Your Hand” (no accordion) and they do the penny whistle ending.  Justin Rutledge comes up for “Marginalized.”  Dave notes that he played with the last night and slayed the house. There’s some raw guitar sounds, but not as interesting as Martin’s.

Amer Diab comes up to play “Lying’s Wrong.”  Mike says, “Shit, I don’t think I’ve ever played this one.”  Dave: “me either.  How does it start?”  “Thanks for pulling that out of the closet.”

Howard Druckman and Beverly Kreller come out to sing “Chansons Les Ruelles.”  Bev plays the bodhran, which is evidently too loud in the monitors, which makes Dave says, “You’re the John Bonham if bodhran players, aren’t you, Bev?”  Mike: “John Bodhran.”   Howard says, “I remember the People’s Republic of Dave.”  Dave says, “You know Broken Social Scene stole everything from PROD.”

Kate Fenner sings “Northern Wish.”  her raspy voice is nice with this although she misses the “built my rocket” section.  Reid Jameson sings “In This Town” and dedicates it to all the Pisces in the room.  “Posses of Pisces.”  Martin says that he hasn’t listen to it since they recorded it.  They typically play a different version.

Dennis Ellsworth sings “Palomar” but the teleprompter seems to give out for a few seconds.

Simon Wilcox sings “Dead is the Drunkest You Can Get.”  But it causes nothing but trouble.  “Anyone remember how to play my song?”  Tim: “I thought this song only ever appeared on a t-shirt.”  She has a sultry, almost sexy delivery.

Matthew Cowley sings “My First Rock Show” although ta the end he says “He was there, I’ve never seen any of those bands.”  During the Joe Jackson saved my life part, Dave chimes in: “hes always doing that.”

Chris plays the “we are the music makers” sample from Willy Wonka.

Simon Head sings “Shaved Head.”  He says “It’s fun to be part of Rheostatioke.”  Martin says, we were thinking rheo-oke.  It sounds good.  The heavy part is really heavy.  At the end everyone comments: “Nice Vegas walk off, Simon.”  Martin: “next time we do that I’m going to do a walk off like that.  The walk off is underrated.”

David Celia does a nice version of “Claire” and Yawd Sylvester sings “Record Body Count.”  They have fun with Yawd (who mentions Tim’s album that he played on).  They call him the one-armed bandit and then say that “Yawd gives this the one thumb up.”  I wonder what happened to him.  There’s some fun jamming guitars (and accordion?) and other sounds.  And he says “Thanks you guys for putting smiles on 28 faces.”

Ford Pier comes out and Tim says, “Thanks, Ford, for not making us learn ‘Motorino.'” He retorts, “I didn’t not make you learn ‘Motorino,’ you refused to learn ‘Motorino.’  Who wants to hear ‘Motorino?’  Yea, well it’s not going to happen because of the lassitutde of these bastards.”  Tim: “That song is fucked.”  Ford: “It’s a damn good song and next year you’re not getting off the hook so easily.”  [He doesn’t sing it next year]. Tim: “It’s like five or six songs.”  Mike: “The only reason it didn’t happen is because you just got off a plane yesterday.”  Ford: “Perhaps we should be doing “Connecting Flights.”  But instead they play “Junction Foil Ball” and everyone messes it up at one point or another.  Guitars, vocals, timing.  It’s a mess, but fun.  And then right away starts the clapping for the next song, “Rain, Rain, Rain.”  Selina Martin sings it kind of crazy and growly and the final verse is pretty silly.

And then they’ve made it to the end.  John Crossingham comes out and they comment that making it to the end is an achievement in itself.

Mike wonders, “Is there going to be an encore?  Or are we going to be more theatrical about this?”
Tim: “The encore is tomorrow morning.”
Dave: “The encore is Selina Martin jumping around a bit more.”

The next song takes a bit of extra special tuning preparation, bear with us.  So John takes the time to thank the band for such a wonderful idea.  It means a lot to all of us who have graced the stage this evening.

Then Dave asks, “John where’d you get your toque?”  John: “On the floor at a Green Day concert at the Rico Coliseum.  I stepped on something and that was it.  I did wash it before I put it on my head.”  Dave: “You’d have to be pretty drunk to leave toque like that at a Green Day show.  How was the tour?”  John: “It was good.  Had its ups and downs.  His book On a Cold Road got us through.  If you haven’t read it already pick it up.  They’re even selling it over there, smartly.  Or perhaps you’d like to read about Italian baseball or hockey in the Republic of China?”

And then they’re ready to end the night with a great version of “A Midwinter Night’s Dream” (which is not available on the Slogett MP3 download).  John does an amazing job with this really difficult song.  He even hits the super high note in the middle.  It’s a solid version, and while I love Martin’ more of course, it’s really enjoyable.

There’s no encore since the show was already 3 hours long (!).  Although there is a crazy noise at the end of the song for a couple of minute–with synths and Martin messing around.

What a fun night.

[READ: July 7 , 2017] Spill Zone

Sarah loves Scott Westerfeld, although I hadn’t read him before. I had to wonder if this graphic novel was also a traditional novel, because I’d love to see how he described the visuals.  But I believe it is only a graphic novel, so I just get to marvel in the visual imagination of Alex Puvilland.

This book starts out weird, no doubt.  Addison is a teen with a camera.  She has been taking pictures of her hometown in upstate New York.  Which isn’t so strange except that her town is a Spill Zone.

What’s that? Well, actually I don’t know yet.  Suffice it to say that it’s not good.  There are dead people, weird sightings and a roadblock with military personnel.  Addison speculates it could be a nanotech accident colliding with the nuclear power plant, an alien visitation, something from another world?  Some people escaped, like her sister Lexa, but most didn’t, like her parents.  Addison was not there when it happened, and since the accident Lexa hasn’t spoken a word.

She is part of group if what she calls crazy tourists who like to take pictures of the disaster. (more…)

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solomonSOUNDTRACK: RYAN KEBERLE & CATHARSIS-Tiny Desk Concert #393 (October 4, 2014).

keberleWhen Trombone Shorty played the Tiny Desk I said that I was surprised to see that the leader of the band was a trombone player.  Well, perhaps it’s not that unusual as Ryan Keberle is a trombonist as well.  But unlike many recent jazz performers, Keberle & Catharsis aren’t showing off. As the blurb puts it, “he’s not after any high-concept framing. He’s just targeting the sweet spot where a nifty arrangement meets a solid groove.”

This band plays pretty traditional jazz (complete with upright bass solos and everything). Although, interestingly, their first song is a cover of  Sufjan Stevens song (turns out that Keberle toured with Stevens).  “Sister” is my favorite of their three songs.  I really enjoyed when the full band kicked in after the intro riff from Keberle.  The band has a vocalist, Camila Meza, who mainly does wordless vocal sounds.  As the song nears its end she does sing lead vocals, and it’s quite pleasant.

Her vocals work pretty well for this song, but I didn’t like it is much later.  That could be because “Sister” is a catchy pop song, where the other songs are jazzy.  And I find her singing style to be a little lite-Fm for my tastes.

“Gallop” is a bit faster than the first song.  It moves along at a nice clip and then stops for a bass and drum solo–very very jazzy.  There’s a trumpet solo in the middle of song too (no trombone solos which is interesting, I guess).  The other guys in the band are Michael Rodriguez on trumpet, Jorge Roeder on bass and Eric Doob on drums.

“Zone” opens with two contradicting three note riffs on both trombone and trumpet which is pretty cool.  Then the song settles down to just bass drums and voice and Keberle playing the melodica (beloved instrument of Tiny Desk Concerts) which works but sounds odd in the mix.  It seems like the song is going to end as the music fades to just bass, but it soon picks up again with anew trumpet solo.

I don’t love mellow jazz like this, but these players are excellent.

[READ: April 13, 2016] Solomon’s Thieves

I had this book on hold for quite some time.  When it finally came in, I thought, hey this art looks familiar.  And then hey, this book is about the Templar knights, what a strange thing that First Second would have two book about the Templar Knights.   And then as I flipped through it I realized the author and artists were the same.  And for a split second I though, they wrote two books about the Templar Knights?

And then it came to me that the first part of Templar was called “Solomon’s Thieves.”  And that this is indeed the First Part published long before Templar actually came out in full.

So even thought I had read the whole of Templar not too long ago, I decided to read this as well   As far as I can tell it is exactly the same as the first part of Templar.  Although it’s possible that there are some minor changes, I wasn’t sure if things that I didn’t remember were just because I can’t remember everything, you know?

Perhaps because I had read the full book not too long ago, I really enjoyed this run though again.  Since everything looked familiar, it was fun to pick up on things I missed the first time, and to see how things made a little more sense once I could tell who everyone was and what their roles were (there is something to be said for re-reading).

I’m including what I wrote about the first part of Templar here because it’s the same, but if you want more about the whole book or background about the Templar Knights check out the full post.

As the story opens we see Martin, a Knight, looking longingly at a woman, Isabelle.  We learn that he had been “dating” her (or whatever they called it back then) and then one day he found out that she left to be married to the brother of King Philip.  So he joined the Knights.  As they march through the city, we see that they are drunkards and carousers.  They get in all manner of trouble.  And one evening they were heading back to Paris when suddenly the above dictum was established–all Knights were to be arrested.  And Martin is one of them.

But through some excellent machinations (and good fighting) he escapes.  And he soon joins together with a very unlikely band of merry men, including Brother Dominic (a real priest with the tonsure and everything) and Brother Bernard, a loutish drunken man who is not above thieving from people.  Martin is offended at the thought of working with him, and they wind up at odds with each other from the start.  Before the end of the first book, we see that they have a letter revealing where all of the Templar gold and jewels are hidden.

There’s a great bit of accounting work done in which the bookkeeper shows on his ledger that rooms were empty when in fact it appears that the gold was taken out on hay carts.  The bookkeeper, even under torture, swears he knows nothing of the fortune’s whereabouts.

Mechner tells a really exciting story with humor and sadness.  The fact that it’s linked to history is just a bonus.  Another winner for First Second and their #1oyearsof01 anniversary.

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flypanam templarSOUNDTRACK: FLY PAN AM-Fly Pan Am [CST008] (1999).

In the Constellation canon, there were four originators: Godspeed You Black Emperor were orchestral, Do Make Say Think were jazzy, and A Silver Mt Zion had vocals.  But Fly Pan Am was the weirdest one—the played with noise, they broke up their songs, they deconstructed their own work and, especially novel to me, everything was in French on the discs.

Roger Tellier-Craig, the main force behind FPA was in GYBE as well.  So he knows post-rock.

Their debut album is a long affair–an hour’s worth of music (in all of 5 songs) taken from two different recording sessions.  (All translated titles are taken from Wikipedia).

“L’espace au sol est redessiné par d’immenses panneaux bleus…” (“The Floorspace Is Redesigned by Huge Blue Signs…”) is a 13 minute song.   There’s ringing noises as a simple melody is plucked out.  The full instrumentation kicks in adding a repetitive guitar line that seems to fall into the background behind the opening notes that are still playing out.  The guitar lines slowly gets longer and longer, almost like a game of Simon.  By around 6 minutes the song has built up a serious head of steam with the bass and drums moving quickly and the guitar getting really complex. By 7 minutes that pretty guitar has turned into a ringing feedback skronking solo which carries on for a minute or so before fading back. At around 9 minutes the song seems to retreat on itself again. The guitars fade away and the bass seems to get a bit louder with the guitars ringing out. The last minute or so resumes a kind of noisy static sound that tells you the song is over.  That’s a heck of an introduction.

“…Et aussi l’éclairage de plastique au centre de tout ces compartiments latéraux” (“…And Also the Lighting of Plastic in the Center of All Its Lateral Compartments”) is a 9 minute song that opens with more scorching guitars and rumbling bass.  The guitar switches back and forth between a two note melody and a chord (dissonant, of course). The other guitar then plays a different three note melody.  About 2:30 in some noisy feedback and samples start taking over the song.  All the music drops away except for the bass.  By 3:15, all the music had dropped out and its just noisy effects and feedback and then outer space sounds.  After about 4 minutes of that (yes, indeed) the bass comes back in playing a kind of discoey rhythm with the guitar supplying a dancey counterpoint which runs to the end of the song.  It’s their first song where something really catchy is utterly dismantled by noise.

“Dans ses cheveux soixante circuits” (“In Her Hair Are Sixty Circuits”) is 17 minutes long (!) and is one of the most abrasive songs I can recall. The song opens with both guitars each playing a two-note melody which rotates through a round. They sound lovely together as the bass and drums play a slow rhythm. The melody changes a few times and then by around 3 and a half minutes the main guitar line grows faster (6 notes instead of 2) and the background feels a bit more tense.   And then at 5:46, the whole song seems to get stuck on repeat. The bass plays a 2 note rhythm, the drums play the same pattern and the two guitars each play one note over and over.  And over.  Evidently it’s “a half-tone interval.”  And this goes on for 12 minutes.  TWELVE!  The only differences through this whole section come from the digitalia of guest electronic musician Alexandre St-Onge, but they are the most unobtrusive electronics I’ve ever heard and just seem to bubble and prickle gently onto the repetition.  It’s maddening and then trance-like and then maddening all over again.  How can they play the same thing for twelve minutes—and their rhythm remains perfect?

“Bibi à nice, 1921” (“Bibi Nice, 1921”) opens with noises and feedback (which is a nice break from the 12 minutes of repetitiveness. But you soon realize that that’s all you’re getting (aside from some distant rumbling noise in the background). It’s a very silent song. For four minutes (out of ten) and then the full band kicks in for a really rocking section—great guitar lines and propulsive bass and drums. But after two minutes, the sound drops out entirely—pure silence (enough to make you assume the disc froze). It slowly returns after 20 seconds–they are messing with us again.  At 7 minutes a new guitar line comes in—slow and pretty with a slow drum beat.  A solo plays over the top—it is primarily electronic, and sounds pretty cool.   The guitars start playing louder and the song feels like it’s going to build up into something huge, but it soon ends and turns into….

“Nice est en feu!” (“Nice Is on Fire!”) seems like it should be connected to the previous song, but it starts off very different with big bass notes playing a very slow riff.  The guitar starts playing a nice accompanying riff. At 3 minutes in, voices come in singing Ahhs in a nice melody. The liner notes say that Kara Lacy and Norsola Johnson do vocals on “Bibi à nice, 1921” and “Nice est en feu!” but I didn’t hear any vocals on “Bibi.”  At 4:30 the guitar line turns to something else and there’s suddenly a whole bunch of noise flooding the track—sounds of water rushing, maybe—but that goes away and a new melody (slightly dissonant) resumes.  With about a minute left the voices resume—angelic and soaring over the rumbling song.  It ends this weird disc on a very pretty note.

I love the crazy stuff that Fly Pan Am creates, even if some of it is hard to listen to.

[READ: February 23, 2016] Templar

I had actually started to read this graphic novel before Prince of Persia.  But when I saw in the introduction that Mechner talks about Prince of Persia, I decided to grab that one and read it first.  The two have nothing to do with each other, but sometimes it’s nice to get things on order.

Who doesn’t love stories about the Templar knights?  The whole premise of the National Treasure is predicated on them after all.  Not to mention, The Da Vinci Code and the book that he says far surpasses all Templar stories: Foucault’s Pendulum [RIP Umberto Eco].

So Jordan Mechner has done a lot of research (there’s a sizable bibliography at the end of the book) to create the story about a couple of Knights Templar.  He says that “much nonsense has been written about the Knights Templar over the years. I’m proud to say that this book has added to that sum.”  He explains that thousands of knights were indeed killed.  Some knights did escape, but the main plot he constructed probably never happened.   One of the histories he read said that “figures of no importance” did escape, and so that was the basis for Martin, Bernard, Isabelle and their gang–inconsequential Templars and their own story.

He also says (in the preface) that all of the movies about the Knights focus on the treasure, but the Knights’ actual story–their rise and shocking downfall– is even more interesting.  He gives a brief backstory.  Formed during the crusades, the Templars gained fame as the noblest and bravest knights in Christendom.  Their legend grew which increased their numbers.   “They were the Jedi of their time.”  They peaked in the 13th century under the protection of the Catholic Church and The Pope.  Then in October 1307 the king of France ordered the mass arrest of All Templars in his kingdom (15,000 of them).  They were brought before the Inquisition and accused of witchcraft, heresy and sodomy.  Guillaume de Nogaret the king’s chef minister staged a huge show trail.  Prisoners who denied the charges were tortured until they confessed, which made everyone who refused to confess seem like a liar. Despite knowing the truth, the Pope bowed to pressure and Templars were destroyed.  Wow. (more…)

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persiaSOUNDTRACK: SALTLAND-I Thought It Was Us But It Was All Of Us [CST094] (2013).

Piles of salt mined by local residents sit on the surface of the world's largest salt flats, the Salar de Uyuni, near the village of Colchani November 20, 2007. Bolivian airlines Aerosur and the Canedos family inaugurated this week the first regular flights of its renovated Douglas DC-3S, or Super DC-3, to bring tourists to the Salar, one of the world's natural wonders, in a project that the airline considers a "trip back in time." Picture taken November 20, 2007. REUTERS/David Mercado (BOLIVIA)Becky Foon, who is one of the main creators of Esmerine has another band on Constellation called Saltland.  The big difference with this band is that she sings as well.  And that this album is much more mellow–full of droning sections and a slow, deep bass that keeps the songs moving along.

This disc is very mellow, with lots of slow beats and electronica sprinkled around it.  When Foon sings, she sings in a deliciously slow voice.  So this album is a good one for chilling out.

The disc opens with “Golden Alley” which has some big slow bass notes and strings urging the song along.   When she begins singing, he voice is deep and hushed–an almost whispered sound that feels practically percussive.  There are words, but her voice also works as part of the music.  A bit of a shift in the music occurs near the end that makes it seem like it’s going to be a long song–especially when Colin Stetson starts blowing some saxophone notes–but it actually just signals the end.

“I Thought It Was Us” is an instrumental which features harmonium and cello.  It also has some interesting noises from Stetson.  About a minute and a half in, it shifts to a really catchy melody that runs through much of the rest of the song while the saxophone solo takes off.  It’s a highlight.

“Treehouse Schemes” really stands out as something familiar.  I don’t know if it sounds like something else or if Foon’s voice is so much more distinctive.  But I really like this track a lot.  It has a slow bass line and some stretched out guitars and then Foon sings a simple and lovely melody line.

“Unholy” is a bit more droney with some well used kalimba and Foon’s voice providing mostly wordless notes.  I really like the way at about a minute and a half, fast drums come in and seem to push the song faster, although the tempo never actually changes.  Theres some great tension and then a nice denouement.

“But It Was All of Us” is another slow droning instrumental, with some wordless vocals and some occasional bass notes. It feels almost like Western movie but with a Middle Eastern feel, a Middle Eastern Western?

“Colour the Night Sky” has some quiet, heavily distorted vocals that swirl with the pulsing beat of the drums and bass.   And then about midway through there’s a clean section where the vocals shine through the din, with the words “I have a fairy tale that I read when I’m feeling down.”

“ICA” has some quiet cello swirls and low voices.  And the album ends on a highlight with “Hearts Mind.”  It’s another one with a prominent bass while swirls of sounds float around Foon’s vocals.   It’s the last-minute or so Foon’s multitracked voices create some lovely ascending ooohss.

This album feel s a lot longer than its 38 minutes, possibly because most of the songs are quite long.  It’s definitely a mood creating album, although not as despairing as the album cover hints at.

[READ:February 21, 2016] Prince of Persia

The evolution of this graphic novel is pretty fascinating.  And it is one I was completely unfamiliar with since I’m not a gamer.

Back in the 1980s Jordan Mechner created a video game called Prince of Persia.  It was popular and there was a sequel.  And then it kind of went away for a while, but people always loved it so then it came back again as a new series of games.  And a film (released in 2010).  Finally in, 2004 First Second (shoutout to #10yearsof01) contacted Mechner about making a story (not the same story as his games) into a graphic novel.  Mechner has always wanted to make a comic book (he had all the gear before he switches over to video games.  And here it is.

From what I gather, Mechner didn’t really write this story so much as inspire it (and I’m sure he had editorial control or whatever).  The book was written by A.B. Sina.  And it is a new story based on the nebulous ideas of the universe that Mechner had created.

I had actually not even heard of the video game (or the movie) so this was all lost on me. But that’s fine and is not necessary for enjoyment of the book.  Although I admit I found the story a little confusing (not because of not knowing the games), although by the end the way the stories linked up was pretty cool.

This story is set in two different eras (the 9th century and another prince in the 13th century) and has two stories paralleling each other.  The two men of the story are linked by a prophecy.  The story opens with Guiv, a (9th century) prince who had attempted to kill his brother Layth, fleeing the city of Marv after escaping death from Layth’s guards. The story then jumps to a young (13th century) woman, Shirin, who flees the city of Marv in an attempt to escape her father. She soon meets up with Ferdos,

Since Guiv was nearly killed by his brother he leaves the city.  He walks into the mountain where he is accompanied by a spirit animal (a peacock) and is able to fend off lions and boars until he encounters a door.  But inside is a pit made of human skeletons.

I was more interested in the story of Shirin.  She is a rebellious woman who would rather do gymnastic dances than hip shaking ones.  So she cuts her hair and leaves her palace behind.  Frankly her story of learning how rough things are outside of the palace was more interesting than the story of the men.   I guess it is also kind of that we follow her for many pages before she meets Ferdos and then his story takes over.  Not to mention, he seems like he’s just crazy for a while.

Ferdos is full of stories about Layth and Guiv and he imagines that he and Shirin will reprise the roles of these past rulers (Shirin will be Guian, the sister/lover–I’m a little unclear about that).

Eventually we learn that Ferdos has ties to the city of Marv, and that his story is linked to the past in unexpected ways.

The end o the story goes very fast with intense pacing and crossing of stories.  It definitely demands careful reading and maybe even a second reading, to see how the stories line up.

Th one great thing about the book is the way the two story lines are never visually confused–the color palates change depending on the century and the main characters all look different enough (especially Shrin, who looks incredibly sexy with her short hair and different colored eyes).

It’s a really clever and intricate story.   I wonder what fans of the game thought of it.

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