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Archive for the ‘Amos Oz’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: NAO-Tiny Desk Concert #833 (March 18, 2019).

This was possibly my least favorite Tiny Desk Concert I have seen.  And it was endless.  It kills me when bands I like play short sets (often only three short songs) while shows like this push nearly 20 minutes.

Nao’s voice is a comic book character–underneath that comic book voice there’s a powerful voice, but it’s all wrapped up in this goofy–how can you take it seriously–nasally nonsense–and when she goes deep, it’s even more amusing.  Worse yet, her backing singers sound like bleating goats and sheep in the first two songs–single note: “baaa.”

And yet , clearly I know nothing because the blurb describes “Nao’s sophomore effort and one of 2018’s best albums.”

Just to top it off, the album is about astrology.

In astrology, your Saturn return is the time in life when Saturn goes back to the same spot it was at the time of your birth. As Nao explained during her appearance at NPR’s Tiny Desk, “It’s about leaving adolescence and going into adulthood.” This crossing of the threshold that happens around your late 20s to early 30s is the inspiration for Saturn

Maybe I would like the album more if her voice was drowned out in synths.

While Nao usually performs with synthy, electronic twinkles, her day at the Tiny Desk was stripped down by comparison. At times, her lyrics ring out with just a sparse guitar to carry them. Like a roller coaster of unexpected upheaval, Nao’s distinctive vocal range on this four-song set goes from bellowing and husky to soft and coy, often within the same verse. Be it the breezy, Brazilian funk of “If You Ever,” the hallowed harmony of “Orbit” (complete with prayer hands) or the valiant soul-searching of “Make It Out Alive,” it’s almost as if Nao duets with herself, answering her own questions, settling into her own quirks.

I listened to the show twice to see if I was wrong.  The first song is a bit catchy–I like the guitar lick from Ariel O’Neal.  In fact, focusing on her throughout the show is a highlight.

I also really like the part between the songs when she introduces the band, because she’s not singing–it’s a nice light jam.  I admit that it amuses me that she says “that’s my cousin Samson Jatto on drums–he’s not really my cousin I just wanted to say that.”

If she didn’t do the R&B warble, the opening of “Bad Blood” would be okay.  But the comical vocals just undermine anything serious.  And then the bleating starts.  I’m not sure if only Troi Lauren and Taylor Samuels are making the goat sounds, but it sounds like it’s coming from all around the room.

“Orbit is similarly okay to start with.   “Make It Out Alive” is the fastest song in the show, with some uptempo keys and bass from Joe Price and Henry Guy.

If it were one song on a mixtape, I’d skip it, but 20 minutes was a lot to take.

[READ: March 26, 2019] “Setting the World to Rights”

A powerful opening from this story: “All his life he lived on hatred.  He was a solitary man who hoarded gloom.”

And how about this: “Good people are afraid of hatred, and even tend not to believe in it.  If it appears before their eyes, they generally call it dedication or some such name.”

Those in the kibbutz believed the subject of the story (unnamed) was full of faith and dealt severely with the world–“We invested him with a halo of self-sufficient reticence.”  This halo afforded protection against gossip although the children called him ‘wicked Haman” and pointed fingers at him.

He works with machines and is efficient and hates waste. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: HAROLD LÓPEZ-NUSSA-Tiny Desk Concert #812 (December 14, 2018).

This was the final Tiny Desk Concert of the year and it featured a pretty traditional jazz trio (piano, bass, drums) from Cuba.  There have been a number of Cuban musicians on Tiny Desk, but I always defer to the blurb:

Cuba is known as much for their pianists as their percussionists — you’ll see why with this performance.

They play three songs.  The first is “Elegua” which opens

with some help from a recording of famed Afro-Cuban folkloric singer Lázaro Ros. Ros is both a musical and spiritual guide for this performance; the trio dug deep into the ritual music of santeria for inspiration with “Eleguá,” a tribute to one of the Afro-Cuban deities.

After about two minutes, Harold plays a nifty staccato riff on the piano while the bass plays a cool  related melody.  The song runs about six minutes and mid way through Ros returns to recite over the music.

When the song is over, Harold introduces his “brothers.”  His literal brother Ruy on drums and his brother from an other mother and father Gastón on bass.

(Special mention should be made of Harold’s brother, Ruy López-Nussa, on drums, and bassist Gastón Joya, who both fill the spaces between the beats while elegantly leaving breathing room within the performances.)

Joya is a treat to watch as he has a contented smile on his face for much of the set.  But it’s Ruy who is the most fun.  With his suit and bow tie and the unconventional way he holds the sticks he is fascinating to watch.  He looks like he is trying to be funny, the way he is playing.  Maybe he is just having fun but his playing is spectacular.

“Preludio (to José Juan)” is shorter–quiet and pretty.  It opens with a lovely melody on the piano.  There’s brushes on the drums and a quiet, subtle bass solo on the middle.  The song is much shorter and the closing minute is just beautiful.

“Hialeah” has the recognizable piano riffs — called guajeos — that we can recognize as originating with Cuban dance music, but the trio deftly melds that rhythm to a complex jazz exploration, without compromising its dance able pulse.

The melodies are recognizable, and yet he is basically riffing with them.  The piece opens with frenetic finger work on the piano with some complex drumming.  The rhythm is playing a dancey melody with some wild soloing on his right hand.  By around 14 minute into the set, he is an amazing blur pf speed and melody.  After a brief one second pause they come back with a phenomenal little drum display.

[READ: January 11, 2019] “All Rivers”

I have really come to enjoy Amos Oz’s stories–they are never about what I think they will be about.

This one was surprising for the way it was constructed as well.

The narrator, Eliezer is fondly remembering a woman ,Tova, who has a profound impact on his life. He says the name Tova was simple and popular and, he felt, didn’t suit her, a young poetess.  He doesn’t remember the color of her eyes, although he does remember the color of her trousers–dark blue/gray and tattered coarse material.

As he is describing her he interrupts himself.  He explains that he wants to be systematic and do things in order, but that he keeps getting ahead of himself  Every time he thinks about her, everything rushes to be first. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LEDISI-“Pieces of Me” (Field Recordings, August 27, 2017).

I only ever heard of Ledisi from a Tiny Desk Concert.  And here she is again.

I still haven’t heard of her anywhere else, but she still sounds amazing.

I absolutely love that she is singing from a balcony and that people start lining the streets to see and hear her.  How cool would that be?  Too bad she doesn’t sing a few more for them.  But heck, it’s New Orleans, things like that probably happen all the time.  Right?

There’s too much happening in New Orleans’ French Quarter — especially on a holiday weekend, and especially when hundreds of thousands of people are in town for the annual Essence Music Festival. There are living statues and five-piece bands and drinks a foot-and-a-half tall and people from all over the world ambling in the middle of the street.

But Ledisi, singing on a balcony in her hometown, stopped the whole thing dead. For a few minutes, with a song about the complications of being a woman, she held an unsuspecting, audibly appreciative crowd in the palm of her hand.

In this Field Recording [Ledisi Steals The Show] she sings a song I don;t know, “Pieces of Me.”  But the crowd seems to.  They even start interacting with her.  So she shouts down to them, “I don’t hear you singing.”  So they do, they sing with her.

As the song ends, she says, “Y’all sound good down there.”  And then as they start trying to talk to her she says, “I didn’t know I was gonna be out here…. I was trying to get something to drink.”

If that was someone I liked I would be totally psyched if that happened to me.

[READ: January 6, 2017] “My Curls Have Blown All the Way to China”

This story looks deep into the psyche of a woman who has just been informed that her husband is leaving her.

The story is full of lists: like a list of clothes to buy for him and for her–she is preparing to find out what clothes they should bring on their trip to Spain.

That’s when he tells her.

During the factory outing to Netanya , a month ago–you remember–when you didn’t feel like going with me, I met this woman there, and afterward it turned out that we kept seeing each other and now, well, I’ve decided to leave you, even though I’m very sorry about it.  Honestly.  But what can I do Bracha?  I just have no choice.

Okay, so that’s pretty fucked up.

Rather than going to Netanya, Bracha was getting her hair cut short–and her long curls blew away. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: VÄSEN-Tiny Desk Concert #720 (March 23, 2018).

Back in 2012 I had my first exposure to the nyckelharpa at Scanfest.  And now, nearly six years later Väsen (who did not play at Scanfest that year) have brought the nyckelharpa to Tiny Desk (and the blurb’s description is hilarious).

Väsen came to the Tiny Desk with just three instruments, but all together it was a 30-string sonic blast of 12-string guitar, viola and nyckelharpa (a fiddle with keys — think 15th century keytar).  Guitarist Roger Tallroth, violist Mikael Marin and nyckelharpist Olov Johansson have been a touring troupe for more than 25 years with 18 albums filled with adventure, amusement and virtuosity. They span the wide emotional range of Swedish folk music, equally haunting and celebratory. There are some similarities to Irish jigs, reels and waltzes that I’m more familiar with, but this music is more ear-bending, with more surprises than I’m used to in traditional string band folk music.

The band plays three instrumentals (all of their songs are instrumental) from their new album Brewed.

It’s fascinating how much these songs sound like Irish jigs and reels (fiddle and guitar after all).  There’s a looseness to them that makes them fun and enjoyable–perfect for drinking and dancing.  Especially a song called “IPA-Gubben” which means, “The old IPA man.”  On introducsing the song Olov points to Mikael and says “this is the old IPA man, he brought this tune as a birthday present when he turned 50.”

It’s possible that the nyckelharpa is quieter than the viol as it’s not always unique sounding amid the music.  But there are a few times when the nyckelharpa is playing a melody that stands out and you can really watch and hear Johansson shine–I had no idea the instrument could be played that quickly either.

Not to take anything away form the other two.  The viol plays some incredibly fast runs and melodies and the guitar while primarily used for chords, also adds in some fast runs.

“Väsenvalsen” was composed by Mikael.  It is the first ever Väsen waltz.  The song starts slowly and then dramatically takes off with some wonderfully fast (and very Irish-sounding lead lines on both viol and nyckelharpa.  I love in the middle when the nyckelharpa plays a harmony melody over the top of the viol so you can hear both instruments clearly.  It has a lovely ending with the nyckelharpa playing high notes to end the song.

“Sommarpolska” means “summer polka.”  It was written by Roger and has a  lovely melody that grows and subsides as the instruments ebb and flow.  It’s a joyful dance song and a wonderful concluding piece.

[READ: January 31, 2018] “Two Women”

In typical Amos Oz fashion, this was a rather short story.  It was translated by Sondra Silverston.

Osnat wakes before her alarm and passes the apartment occupied by Boaz and Ariella.  She thinks about what happened two months ago as if it had happened to strangers many years ago.

But it was only two months ago Boaz told Osnat he’d been having an affair with Ariella.  So he’s leaving her and moving in with Ariella (who lives in the same building).  Their affair began one day when Boaz came to fix a broken tap.  Boaz prepared for a huge confrontation, but as he started to ramp up his argument, she cut him off: “Go.  Just go.” (more…)

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tny 12.08.08.indd SOUNDTRACK: DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS-Tiny Desk Concert #574 (October 24, 2016).

drivebyI have never listened to this band.  Their name turned me off right from the start, so I’ve never given them a chance.

I never even knew exactly what they sounded like.  And I’m still not entirely sure if this is what they typically sound like.  But this set is full of mostly uptempo folk rockers that explore some pretty intense subjects.

The first two songs are sung by Patterson Hood with his gravelly voice.

I am somewhat surprised to see that there were two Tiny Desk Concerts in a row with the word Umpqua in it.  But while Blind Pilot’s “Umpqua Rushing” is about a relationship, Drive-By Truckers’ “Guns Of Umpqua” is about the horrific shooting at Umpqua Community College in rural Oregon last year.

There’s apparently always been a serious political current in their music, but it’s been somewhat hidden. But for this album, they started writing songs that address what’s going on right now.  For “What It Means,” he explains, “I wrote this song a couple years ago. I’d honestly be really happy if it was just outdated and something we could leave in the past, but that’s certainly not the case right now.”  It is about the killing of young black men like Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin.

The final song “Once They Banned Imagine” is sung by Mike Cooley who has a much deeper voice.  He says this song is “about things staying the same, and not necessarily in a good way.”  This has more of a country feel, but with some pretty piano.

I wouldn’t say I’ve become a fan, but I’m far more open to their music than I was before hearing this Concert.

[READ: March 14, 2016] “Waiting”

This is only the second Amos Oz story I’ve read (this was translated by Jill Sand D’Angelo and Amos Oz).

It is very simple story, in which not a lot happens (hence the title).

Set in the old village of Tel Ilan, this story follows Benny Avni, the head of the District Council.  He was a considerate man and was well liked by the people of the village.  As is stated any times, “he walked pitched forward, with a stubborn gait, as if he were fighting a strong headwind.”

Benny was sitting in his office in the afternoon when a knock came at his door.  A man named Adel brought him a note from his wife.  Adel has seen her sitting on a bench in the park.  The note cryptically said “Don’t worry about me.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: FROU FROU-Details (2002).

Many years ago I bought Imogen Heap’s debut album because it was described as being similar to Tori Amos’ work.  I think that it’s really closer to someone like Heather Nova, but regardless, it was enjoyable, with her cool voice that had an unexpected falsetto thing that I rather liked.

I promptly forgot about her, although the single “Come Here Boy” stuck with me.  I was recently turned on to Frou Frou somewhere even though this album came out almost ten years ago.  Since a decade is a long time I can’t recall if 2002 was the time of this sort of music or not (well, Dido came out in 1999, so maybe this was the tail end?)

Anyhow, this album plays nicely into the continuum of slightly more complex than normal pop songs sung by a woman with a cool if not unique voice.  Heap provides the vocals, and I suppose the most notable quality is her breathiness.  She seems to be able to sing in a whisper, which is pretty neat and, again, there’s that falsetto which doesn’t seem to get higher so much as otherwordly.

She’s an excellent match for Guy Siggworth who creates music (at least I assume he did the music, I’m not sure how it was divided exactly) that is interesting and electronic but also soft and welcoming.  Despite the fact that the music is obviously a dude with a keyboard, his choices are not electronic and dancey, they are more enchanting (although they are also very catchy and dancey).

They work wonders as a team, and if you miss this sort of not-pure pop album (circa 2000), this is a great disc to pick up.  Heap’s voice may be one to get used to, but I find it far more engaging than the autotuned voices circa 2010.

A couple of stand out tracks include: “Must Be Dreaming” which has some especially nifty effects that make the song stand out.  The most Björkian song “Psychobabble” also offers cool sound effects which take it well out of the pop realm (her voice is particularly cool on this track).  And “Maddening Shroud” is probably the best poppy song I’ve heard in a long time.

[READ: January 11, 2011] “The King of Norway”

In my mind Amos Oz is a capital-A Author, somehow promising Thoughts.  Maybe it’s because he writes in Hebrew.  Maybe it’s because of the mystical name Oz, but he seems like a Prophet or something.  And in that respect, I suppose I am simply not full of Grace enough to get the Point of this story.

I know that it is utterly unfair to hold this man up to these made up standards, especially since I’ve never actually read him before.  But that’s all moot, because I feel like there’s more to this than meets the eye and I am just not that interested in finding out what.

It’s utterly coincidental that tonight we watched the first half of A Serious Man (which also features Hebrew prominently), but I am suffused with Jewish thought this evening.  (I enjoyed A Serious Man a lot more than this story, by the way). (more…)

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