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Archive for the ‘Cecil Castellucci’ Category

luchSOUNDTRACK: THE CRISTINA PATO TRIO-Tiny Desk Concert #305 (September 21, 2013).

patoI didn’t know who Cristina Pato was or what instrument she played.  So when the show started (without visuals), I assumed she was the accordionist (because the show starts with some wild accordion music).  But in fact, Pato is playing the bagpipe.  Pato’s instrument is the gaita, a Galician bagpipe, and her roots lie in traditional Galician music — though she also boasts graduate degrees in classical piano, music theory and electronic composition.

I love the sound she band gets together with the funky staccato accordion notes and the wild racing pipes.  They are very jazzy and very idiosyncratic.  Her percussionist uses several different types of drums—the ubiquitous box drum and a hand held drum as well as various shakers and other sound makers.

They play three songs.  It’s interesting how much of the first song is taken up without the bagpipes—there’s lenghy sections where the accordion has the floor and she is just happily dancing around.  And the accordionist is amazing.  he plays all kinds of different styles and gets an amazing range of sounds out of that one instrument. He wails!  Of course I see now that the song is actually written by the accordionist: “Victor Prieto: ‘Mundos Celtas.'”  So it’s no wonder that she is happy to sit back and let him shine.  (Prieto , like Pato, is a native of the town of Orense in Galicia).  While he is playing, she whoops and hollers to get everyone pumped.  But once she gets her instruments going she is a nonstop blur of fingers and wild notes.  I particularly like that she has a section where the note is slightly flat and she continues to slowly raise it until it gets in pitch.  I also love–due to the nature of the bag pipes–that she can scream and whoops while still pressing air out of the bags.  And at the end of the song, she is just wild with fast notes.  It’s a very intense piece.

The second piece “Traditional/Cristina Pato: “Alalá Re-rooted” starts with her singing.  She is unmiked so you can’t really hear her, but I don’t really enjoy her singing as much as her playing so it’s okay.  I do love the interesting sounds the percussionist Shane Shanahan (Shanahan is American, but is also a longtime member (with Pato) of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble) is making.  Overall, this is a fairly dissonant piece—with her sounding almost like a free jazz players (but on pipes rather than sax).  I do love near the end where she almost seems to get a harmonic overtone on the pipe.  It’s a great moment—but fairly weird how the song just sort of fades away before seguing into the final song.

Victor Prieto & Emilio Solla: “Muñeira For Cristina” this song seems to be all about percussion with lots of drumming and a very noisy tambourine that Pato plays.  She gets the crowd clapping along and then  when she and Prieto play the same awesome riff together,it sounds great.  I love watching her shake the finger part while she’s playing it, to get a cool almost whammy bar sound out of it.  The song totally rocks and the whole set with the unlikely combo of accordion and bagpipe is startlingly wonderful.

[READ: April 20, 2016] Comics Squad: Lunch!

I really enjoyed the first Comics Squad book and I was delighted that a second one came out.  I just recently saw that a third one is coming out the summer–I love that it is called Detention and is coming out on Independence Day.

Like the first collection, this one is edited by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm (Babymouse/Squish) and Jarrett J.  Krosoczka (Lunch Lady).

But the rest of the line up is quite different this time around, which is cool–allowing other artists to shine.  This time there are stories from Cece Bell (El Deafo) ; Jason Shiga (a great indie artist who does some kid-friendly and some decidedly not kid friendly books) ; Cecil Castelucci & Sara Varon ; Jeffrey Brown and Nathan Hale (his own series of historical stories).

Like the previous book, the Holms and Krosoczka sprinkle the book with comments and interstitials from Babymouse and Lunch Lady. (more…)

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oddduck1SOUNDTRACK: SAM LEE-Tiny Desk Concert #470 (September 11, 2015).

samlee Sam Lee has a fascinating voice, it reminds me of Nick Drake, but more… powerful.  He has Drake’s timbre and somewhat unusual delivery–sort of a stage-ready musical delivery.  But aside from his voice, what makes Lee so interesting is that for these three songs, possibly for all of his songs, he “has dedicated himself to preserving centuries-old folk songs of the U.K. and Ireland, particularly from “outsider” communities like the Roma (Gypsies) and the Scottish and Irish Travelers.   He and his bandmates–ukulele player and vocalist Jon Whitten, violinist and vocalist Flora Curzon, and percussionist and vocalist Josh Green–put these ancient songs in thoroughly 21st-century arrangements that feel creative, fresh and surprising, but also deeply human.”

“Over Yonders Hill” opens with that ukulele and Lee’s voice–I was quite surprised when I first heard it all together, but it works quite well.  And then the fiddle kicks in, playing some lovely swirling solos.  Then Lee adds a tiny harmonium, and that wheezy tone adds perfectly to the feeling that you might be out by a campfire   The song keeps building with backing vocals from the drummer.  As the song nears its end the violinist adds her haunting backing voice to the proceedings.

He explains that he goes around the country recording old singers—the keepers of these old traditional songs.  So the second song, “Lovely Molly” he learned from an old Scots traveler—a song of an old plow boy going to war.  They do this one a cappella and their harmonies are beautiful.

He learned the final song, “Goodbye My Darling” from a horse dealer in Kent–an old gypsy man.  It is about men being sent off to penal servitude in the United States and Australia and the injustice done to those incarcerated.  It is also played on that tiny harmonium which looks like a laptop.  As the harmonium fades away the violin plays a sweet pizzicato melody.  After about three minutes the song kicks into high gear, sounding very much like a traditional song—fast violin and quick rhythm.   And yet as the music grows more alive, the lyrics get darker.  As the song ends he does a kind of whistling hum, which I simply don’t understand, but which adds a delightfully strange texture to the music.

I don’t know that I would seek out Lee’s music, but it’s nice knowing he’s out there.

[READ: March 26, 2016] Odd Duck

I love the First Second Childrens’ books.  They are a little bit odd, but ever so fun.   And Sara Varon is a great illustrator so putting her art on anything makes it enjoyable.

I’ve read a number of Castellucci’s other books, and the two seem like good pair for this story about not quite fitting in.

Theodora is a duck.  She likes things to be regular and consistent.  She goes for a swim at the same time every day, with a tea cup on her head–making sure not to spill a drop.  She always has exact change at the store and looks at the stars every night.

But she is also a little different from the other ducks.  She buys mango salsa (which no one else does), she buys fabric squares and reads books that haven’t been checked out in years. (more…)

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jiloveSOUNDTRACK: “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC-“Handy” (2014).

handyI had never heard of this song until I heard that it was going to be parodied on Al’s new album.  (I have since heard that it is the song of the summer, so I am clearly living under a rock).  I listened to it a few days ago and hated it.  I couldn’t believe how much it is not a song.  It’s not even a verse, it’s a simple riff repeated over and over–even into the chorus.  By definition, the song should be catchy since if you hear the same four notes over and over for 3 minutes it will get stuck in your head.  Clearly, the selling point is her weird vocal delivery, but that’s more gimmicky than anything else–she doesn’t even have a vocal melody. I don’t get it.

So how did Al turn that not-a-song into this delight of home repair?  I’d say it’s because he actually sings the lines (in his funny delivery) and that his lyrics are interesting (and very funny).  I feel like he turned that idea of a song into an actual song.  And, since I believe his version is faster and shorter, it just feels better overall.

I love how much he throws into the song–he sure knows his handy man speak.  I also like the way he uses the “do dat do dat/screw dat screw dat” lines to his own purpose.  He really breathes life into the “song of the summer,” and in the fall when Iggy Azalea is in the one hit wonder bin, I’ll still be saying I’m so handy”

This video is not on YouTube yet, but you can watch it at Al’s site.

[READ: July 6, 2014] The Plain Janes.

I enjoyed The Plain Janes and this is the sequel.  The problem for me (and I suppose anyone who waits almost exactly 7 years to read the sequel is that there was no recap, even minor, of what went on in the first book.  So that made it a little had to get up to speed.  I mean, I remembered the basic story, but couldn’t remember at all the details.

I guess the story was simple enough, but I had forgotten about John Doe and that Jane’s family left Metro City after a bomb scare.  Regardless, it is a year later and P.L.A.I.N. the art collective is still active and the Janes are still together.

The John Doe from the first story is Miroslav and Jane is writing to him regularly.  Miroslav is an artist as well and he and his girlfriend have been applying for grants (and getting them) to create their one art.  Jane feels that her own group’s art stunts are not big or important enough.  However, the town, especially the Police Chief thinks that P.L.A.I.N. are a gang and he is looking to arrest them (I don’t think the book ever reminds us what P.L.A.I.N. stands form which is kind of a shame too as I can’t remember).

Jane has a new interest close to home as well.  Damon.  I don’t recall if he was in book one, but it sounds like he took the fall for her during a recent art prank.

We also see that there is tension among the Janes.  Theater Jane is pining for a theater boy named Rhys, although since he is far away, she doesn’t hear from him much (but she sure does talk about him a lot).  Jock Jane decides to ask a basketball player out, so she marches over and tells him that they are dating now.  And he agrees (she also can’t stop talking about him).  Science Jane is too shy to ask Melvin out (but keeps talking about him).  The gay boy (whose name I don’t think was given ) is pining for there to be another gay person in the school.

There’s also some drama at home.  There was an anthrax scare and Jane’s mom’s friend was killed by it (she worked at the post office).  This has put Jane’s mom over the edge and she refuses to go outside at all now.  So Jane’s dad is doing everything in his power to make her go outside, including sleeping in a tent.

Then the unthinkable happens P.L.A.I.N. are caught doing an art installation and are sent to do community service.

But what if Jane can actually get a grant like Miroslav?  Can she legally make an artistic change in the community  The arts council has ever given money to a high schooler before, and what could she possibly do that would impress them?

The end of the book is satisfying in many ways, although as with a lot of love stories, the love part doesn’t really make a lot of sense

I was once again mixed on the art.  I like a lot of it, but there were some choices that I didn’t love–sometimes the characters looked really cartoony and sometimes they didn’t, so I wasn’t exactly sure what look he was going for was.  It was clear that these were choices and not flaws, so it was just a matter of my not liking his choices.

Castellucci has a great sense of these characters, i think I’d prefer them in a more fleshed out scenario–maybe a series of novels where each character gets  more time to explore herself.

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bomarsSOUNDTRACK: SIGUR RÓS-“Ný batterí” (2000).

nyThe single opens with “Rafmagnið búið” a kind of brass introductory piece.  There’s lots of horns building slowly, growing louder but not really playing a melody.  By the end of five minutes, it segues into “Ný batterí” which opens with horns as well.  Then the bass comes in, a slow, deep rumble of simple melody.  After 4 and a  half minutes, the drums are a powerful counterpoint to the sweet melody.

“Bíum bíum bambaló” is a slow piece (aren’t they all) that is mostly percussion.  Apparently it is an Icelandic lullaby.  The final track, “Dánarfregnir og jarðarfarir” was a theme used for death announcements on Icelandic radio.  I love the way it builds from a simple melody into a full rock band version and then back again.  It’s very dramatic.

Both tracks were used in the film Angels of the Universe (and appear on the soundtrack).

That certainly makes this single less interesting than the first one (although I’m not sure that the soundtrack was readily available at the time).

[READ: December 1, 2013] Breakfast on Mars

This is a collection of 38 essays (and an introduction by Margaret Cho).  It also includes an introduction geared toward teachers–an appeal that essays do not need to be dull or, worse yet, scary.  The editors encourage teachers to share these essays with students so they get a feel for what it’s like to write compelling personal nonfiction.  The introduction proper gives a brief history of the essay and then talks about the kind of fun and funny (and serious) essays that are included here.

This was a largely fun and largely interesting collection of essays.  When I grabbed it from the library I didn’t realize it was essays (I was intrigued by the title and then looked at the author list and immediately brought it home).  I know it says essays on the cover, but I chose to ignore that apparently.  When Sarah saw the authors (she knows more of them than I do) she had to read it first.  This proved to be a great counterpoint to the very large novel that I was reading at the same time.

The essays each take on different topics.  And what I liked was that before each essay, they include the question that inspired the essay.  I have included the questions here. (more…)

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plain1.jpgSOUNDTRACK: RICHARD THOMPSON-Small Town Romance (1984), Guitar Vocal (1976), Starring as Henry the Human Fly (1972).

This is the last batch of RT CDs before I get to Sweet Warrior. I saved these for last because of their esoteric nature.

small-town.jpgSmall Town Romance: This is a collection of live solo recordings in NYC from 1967-1982. The sound quality isn’t always the best, and RT’s voice isn’t always up to snuff. I’m thinking that all the songs are Richard & Linda or Fairport Convention works. I don’t like the early material as much as his later work so, aside from appreciating the venues and the cozy atmosphere, this isn’t a favorite disc of mine. (more…)

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