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Archive for the ‘Brian Selznick’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: CHILLING THRILLING SOUNDS OF THE HAUNTED HOUSE (1964).

The cover during Phish’s 2014 concert was of this album.

Apparently many people grew up with this record.  I personally didn’t know it, but if you read the comments (don’t read the comments!) on any YouTube clip of the album you will see how popular it is.

Wikipedia describes it as  intended for “older children, teenagers, and adults” released by Disneyland Records (now known as Walt Disney Records). The album was mainly composed of sound effects that had been collected by the sound effects department of Walt Disney Studios. The album was released in several different forms. The album was first released in 1964 in a white sleeve, with a second release in 1973 with an orange sleeve. In both versions, the first side contained 10 stories narrated by Laura Olsher, complete with sound effects. The second side contained 10 sound effects meant for others to create their own stories.

Despite the title, most of the cuts had nothing to do with haunted houses or witches or ghostly spirits. Featured were such situations as an ocean liner hitting rocks, an idiotic lumberjack, a man crossing an unsafe bridge, someone lighting a stick of dynamite and a spaceship landing on Mars. Also, there are tracks with several examples of cats, dogs and birds (similar to “The Birds”) becoming enraged for some reason, as well as a skit about Chinese water torture. In addition, some of the screams were taken directly from the scene where Miss Havisham catches fire in the 1946 David Lean film Great Expectations.

The full track listing is

  • “The Haunted House” 3:00
  • “The Very Long Fuse” 1:28
  • “The Dogs” 1:13
  • “Timber” 1:45
  • “Your Pet Cat” 0:49
  • “Shipwreck” 1:39
  • “The Unsafe Bridge” 1:21
  • “Chinese Water Torture” 2:02
  • “The Birds” 0:46
  • “The Martian Monsters” 1:41
  • “Screams and Groans” 0:57
  • “Thunder, Lightning and Rain” 2:01
  • “Cat Fight” 0:37
  • “Dogs” 0:48
  • “A Collection Of Creaks” 1:54
  • “Fuses and Explosions” 1:11
  • “A Collection Of Crashes” 0:45
  • “Birds” 0:33
  • “Drips and Splashes” 1:18
  • “Things In Space” 0:53

Nothing is especially scary–although maybe for a kid, as many adults claim to have been really frightened by it.  Everything is quite over the top, especially the screams and cat howls and dog snarling.  Even the stories are a little silly, although having them in the second person is pretty genius.

But things like “one night as you lie in your lonely room in your stone hut on the moors…”  (What?).  And the Martian one.  Just keeping with continuity: if “you,” meaning me, went on the trip, then I couldn’t hear the crunching as it ate me.  Or the silly voice saying “I wonder what that was.”

And the less said about the horribly racist Chinese Water Torture the better.  I mean, the opening is bad enough: “The ancient Chinese were a very clever race” but the end of the song is really awful.  But if we can look past that, the rest of the record has fun with sound effects and is generally pretty enjoyable.

During the John Congleton interview, he also talks about this album and says (at 40:28) “the speakers are 180 degrees out of phase to make it sound extremely stereophonic.”  He says now as an engineer it is totally painful to listen to.  Bob says it sounds like it comes from the back of your head.

[READ: October 15, 2017] Half-Minute Horrors.

The premise of this book (edited by Susan Rich) is simple: how scared can you get in 30 seconds?  To me, the answer is actually not very.  I guess for me fear builds over time.  It’s hard to get genuinely frightened over something that just suddenly happens (unless it is just trying to frighten you quickly, of course).

Having said that, I enjoyed this book a lot (look at the list of authors!).  I liked the arbitrary goal of writing a scary story in a paragraph or two (or more).  And some of them were really quite creepy.

I was originally going to point out which ones I felt were the most creepy, but there are so many stories, I kind of lost track.  So instead, here’s a rundown and a brief summary. (more…)

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walkerSOUNDTRACK: THE CIVIL WARS-Tiny Desk Concert #137 (June 27, 3011).

civilMany Tiny Desk performances just show the band playing.  But there’s evidently a lot of time before hand where the band sets up and has fun.  I love seeing that, and it’s kind of a shame they cut so much of it out.

As this show starts, Joy Williams is holding the film clacker with Bob.  He tells her to give it a loud clack.  She kind of lets it go on its own accord and then says she didn’t do a good job.  John Paul White then says “I could have done it so much better,” to much laughter.

The Civil Wars are Joy and John Paul and they have terrific chemistry.  The first song is “Barton Hollow,” John Paul plays a loud percussive resonator guitar and the two sing great harmonies.  He sings loudly with her nice harmonies, but the middle part is quieter with her gorgeous voice singing out the lyrics.   I really like the down step chords in the “walking and running” section at the end of the song.

Before “Twenty Years” Bob asks if they ever had a desk job.

Joy says no: daycare, rock climbing.   John Paul says No: forklift driver, seed cleaning, (she asks what that means, but he doesn’t hear her which is a shame as I’d like to know too) cleaning out chicken houses.  He pauses…. I wanted a desk job.

For the song, John Paul switches to a simple acoustic guitar and plays less percussively for this somewhat quieter song.

It’s really fun to watch the two of them play together.  As the blurb notes: “There’s blissful, swooning chemistry as they stare into each other’s eyes and sing magnificently together.”  So it’s a bit of shock that they are not married to each other (they each have spouses, though).  Turns out that they met at a songwriting session at a Nashville studio in 2008.

Before “Poison & Wine” John Paul asks if they are all so quiet and respectful or if Bob rules with an iron fist.

Joy plays the keyboard for this song while John Paul plays a quiet guitar.  This song has wonderful harmonies in the beautiful if puzzling chorus , “I Don’t Love you, I always will.”

I didn’t know The Civil Wars before this set and I am really hooked.

[READ: February 2, 2016] The Unsinkable Walker Bean

This book has some pretty great blurbs attached to its (from Brain Selznick and Jeff Smith) but I found that I couldn’t really get into it.

A lot of the problem was the artwork.  Interestingly, the artwork on the cover (which I assume is also one by Reiner since it looks like his style) is really great.  But the interior art feels like a sloppy version of this cover art.  And while it’s not sloppy, of course, it just doesn’t look as nice as it might.  Couple that with text that is hard to read, a story line that is full of weird little details and twists and it all wound up being a story that felt way too long for what it was.

There was a lot that I did like about it.  I liked the general premise and I liked two of the crew members that Walker Bean befriends, and of course I loved the various gadgets that they created.  I just didn’t enjoy the story all that much. (more…)

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moses SOUNDTRACK: WE ARRIVE ALIVE-One (2013).

oneThis is the final EP available from the We Arrive Alive bandcamp site.  In fact 2013 is the last I can find any information about this band at all.  This site, their Facebook page, there’s nothing after mid 2013.  I wonder what happened.

For this EP, the band has also grown to a 7 piece Andrew McGurk, Ben Healy, Adam Faulkner, Sean Dexter, Iain Faulkner, Michael Naude, Neil Dexter (still no idea who plays what).

“3 years” opens with some noise and fat propulsive bass and guitar.  The song feels more complex, although I’m not sure what the new musicians add to the song. There’s more noise (scraping guitar and whatnot ) that bring new dissonant textures to the song.  There may even be horns at the end (it’s a little hard to tell in the din). “Slow Fall” opens with a slow piano and an intricate drum pattern. A slow guitar line plays over the bass before some really noisy guitars are laid over the top.  At around 4 minutes the song shifts gear becoming faster and more broody.

The final song start with some ringing chords and a staccato guitar line. I like the way the new guitar introduces a melody to the proceedings. The song really starts to build at around 2 minutes, with some crashing cymbals shortly after.  There’s also a pretty middle section (which seems like a ticking clock).  The song end with a ringing guitar-and unexpected mellow ending to what I assumed would be a loud buildup to a song.

I’m intrigued by the direction the band went with this EP, although I like the sound of their previous one a bit more.  I am also concerned that they’ve broken up.  But if they have, they have three great EPs to their name.

[READ: March 24, 2015] Robert Moses

I can’t tell how ignorant I am that I’ve never heard of Robert Moses.  I mean his name sounded vaguely familiar, but I would never have known who he was (the master builder of New York City).  And I have to wonder if I am not alone.  For this book was originally written in French (and was printed in Poland and released in England).

This turns out to be a graphic novel biography of Robert Moses.  It’s hard to summarize how incredibly influential Moses was.  The back of the book says “From the streets to the skyscrapers, from Wall Street to the Long Island suburbs, every inch of New York City tells the story of one man’s mind.”

If you have seen the (excellent) book Wonderstruck, the mini model of New York City mentioned in the book was created for Moses.  New York Bound books describes the model thusly: “The Panorama, a miniature scale model of New York City that was commissioned by Robert Moses for the 1964 World’s Fair, is a 9,335 square foot architectural model that includes every single building constructed before 1992 in all five boroughs, or a total of 895,000 individual structures.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MOGWAI-Mr. Beast (2006).

After several mellow, quiet albums, Mr Beast brings back a lot of the Mogwai noise.  I distinctly remember listening to Mr Beast when it first came out because it was the first time I was home with my son and I exposed him to something other than kids music (he was 8 months old at the time).

Mr Beast changes things up from previous disc in a few ways.  There’s no long songs on the disc (5:30 is the longest), but there’s a return of some of the noise from earlier discs.

“Auto Rock”, although featuring keyboard, is a pretty heavy track, with big drums and loud layers of music that try but fail to disguise a riff.  But the best song on the album comes next “Glasgow Mega-Snake” is that awesome Mogwai beast: rocking guitars, a memorable riff and powerful drumming.  It’s recognizable once it starts, it’s got cool screaming solo notes and just when you think it’s going to end quietly, pow–it is indeed mega.

Despite all evidence to the contrary I think of Mogwai as an instrumental band.  So it’s always surprising when they have vocals on a song.  But it’s even more surprising when the song has steel guitars, is exceedingly mellow and has gently sung, slightly synthesized vocals.  And that’s what “Acid Food” is.  It’s followed by “Travel is Dangerous” which features the least processed vocals of any Mogwai track that I can think of.  It’s a wall of sound from the guitars, but it’s also a pretty conventional verse/chorus structure–will wonders never cease?  Despite that, there’s some wonderful screaming feedback during the solo portion of the song.

Diversity is the name of the game on this album though, as “Team Handed” is a gentle piano ballad.  “Friend of the Night” is one of their catchiest melodies–the piano runs through a series of riffs and ending with a beautiful piano line.  “Emergency Trap” and “Folk Death 95” are two more mellow tracks, but these have some intricate guitar lines running through them as opposed to the ashes of sound from previous discs.

“I Chose Horses” has a spoken vocal part from Tetsuya Fukagawa from the Japanese band Envy.  He speaks slowly and placidly over a beautiful piano melody. The disc ends with “We’re No Here” a final blast of noise to show that they’ve not gotten all soft.  It starts like many of the other songs, but by the end, the guitars are ratcheted up, with a simple but powerful solo taking over the back half of the song until a final descending feedback closes out the disc.

It’s an amazing piece of music. The bonus DVD shows how they made the disc.  I think it was the first time I’d ever seen/heard the guys in the band.

[READ: July 6, 2011] Wonderstruck

Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret was a fantastic pastiche of gorgeous pictures and exciting text–not quite graphic novel and not quite illustrated book.  While the story was wonderful, the pictures were truly amazing–beautiful pencil (charcoal?) pages, many of which spread across two pages.  They were textured and very detailed.  And they brought to life elements of the story in a way that the text couldn’t.

Wonderstruck follows the same format: several pages of wordless illustrations followed by several pages of text.  But unlike Hugo Cabret, the words and pictures tell two very different stories.  The pictures tell the story of a young deaf girl.  The girl adores the actress Lillian Mayhew and even sneaks out to the movies to watch her films (this is set before “talkies”, when the deaf could watch films the same as everyone else).  We follow her through her life as she runs to the New York City and runs into several important figures in her life.  There several surprises are in store for her (and the reader), which I will not spoil here.  Suffice it to say that several times I said, wow! (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE-The Black Parade (2006).

mcr.jpgI know that Green Day is derivative. It’s obvious that they aren’t the originators of any kind of punk anything, and yet, they seem to have been the catalyst for a new breed of poppy punk bands, and they make an excellent reference point for these snotty young kids who sing catchy choruses with brash guitars. My Chemical Romance follow in a Green Day footstep. I don’t know too much about their previous records, but this one garnered rave reviews, so I thought I’d check it out. It seems to be some kind of concept album.

It seems like every five years or so a “concept” album comes out that seems to strike a chord with the people of the time. Let’s see: Pink Floyd: The Wall (1979); Queensryche: Operation Mindcrime (1988); Nine Inch Nails: The Downward Spiral (1994); Green Day: American Idiot (2004). There are of course many more, but these seemed to really be popular at their time and beyond. So now we have this new post-Green Day concept album. The concept is of “the Patient” who is dying of cancer (which okay, after now two books and this CD, cancer is a bit too prolific on this blog, but I’m not yet ready to add a tag for it [UPDATE: tag added]). I haven’t delved too deeply into the concept of this concept album, but I can say that the songs are overall pretty catchy and singalongy which, aside from being weird for an album about cancer, makes for good listening.

The album may be a little too poppy for my tastes, but “The Teenager” is really an outstanding song (aside from the part that breaks down into only drums and vocals which is a bit too 80s metal for me) but the rest of the song is great. I’ll write an update if I get an opinion of the “concept” of the album at a later date.

[READ: June 19, 2007] The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

Speaking of concepts, this book has a great one. It is part novel, part graphic novel and part imagined biography of the classic filmmaker Georges Méliès. The book itself is really beautiful: it is designed to open flat so you can really enjoy the pictures which span two pages. There are some 280 original drawings, interspersed with fictional writing. The drawings themselves are quite astonishing. Selznick’s style is of a very thick pencil line, almost crosshatching style. He conveys realism very well, and the overall feel of the book is one of a cinematic experience, including zooms and fades to black. (more…)

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