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Archive for the ‘Daniyal Mueenuddin’ Category

815SOUNDTRACK: BORIS-Pink (2005/2016).

You never know exactly what you’re going to get with an experimental band like Boris.  Well, you sort of know what you’re going to get–it will be loud and heavy (mostly).

Boris is and pretty much always has been a trio from Japan: Takeshi on vocals, and double neck bass/ guitar;  Atsuo on drums and some vocals and Wata – with guitars effects and vocals.

.  Their first album came out in 1996 and was a 60 minute continuous piece of drone metal.  It is considered ground breaking (and ground shaking) and is completely influential.  It (along with half of their catalog) is currently out of print, at least in the U.S.  Boris is also nigh impossible to collect all of their music, if you like that sort of thing.  Their Japanese releases are inevitably different from any American release (and sometimes vinyl differs from CD).  Either by track order or length of song or even the mix of particular songs

A decade and eight (plus) releases later with names like Amplifier Worship and Heavy Rocks, they put out Pink.

Pink is a landmark album for Boris (two years ago they toured the album),  because even though it was still incredibly heavy, it also experimented.  Most notably with shoegaze.

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Pink has a specific track listing on both American and Japanese releases, but the vinyl mixes things up.

The CD releases open with “決別” (“Farewell”) a beautiful soaring 7 minute slow song with a catchy chord sequence and lovely ringing guitars.  Although the beauty is interrupted by Wata’s wailing guitar solos.  She plays some wonderful soaring notes although at times they are rather piercing.  But it’s still kind of soothing and dreamy

Until track 2, when “Pink” scorches forth with a  super fast super heavy super guitar blast.  Four minutes of all out metal with soaring guitars, heavy drums and some appropriate screams from drummer/singer Atsuo.  And if you listen with headphones, there may be two or three guitars echoing in there (in addition to Wata, Tetsuo exclsuivly plays a doubleneck bass/guitar so you never really know what you’re going to get form him next.

The two and a half-minute “スクリーンの女” (“Woman on the Screen”) continues the thrash while the two-minute “別になんでもない” (“Nothing Special”) only increases it with a guitar so fuzzed out as to be almost recognizable.

“ブラックアウト” (“Blackout”) shows another side of the band.   Still loud, still heavy, but grindingly slow and sludgy (those shoegaze days are long gone).  The song ends with nearly a minute of ringing feedback before abruptly cutting off and switching to a more standard heavy metal sound in the 75 second instrumental “Electric.”

“偽ブレッド” (“Pseudo-Bread”) stomps along with fast drums and all kinds of distortion.  It’s even got a kind of mumbly sing-along chorus.  In the second half of these song there’s a great riff and even some “ooh oohs” to sing along to.  It’s really catchy until the ten seconds of noise tacked on at the end (the vinyl version extends this sheer brutal wall of noise to six minutes!).

“ぬるい炎” (“Afterburner”) changes tempo a lot.  It sounds like a big old 1970s rock song with chanted vocals and hand claps.  Wata’s solo is pure old school classic rock.  Prominent drums and highly distorted guitars split headphones as the vocals sit in the middle of the three-minute “6を3つ” (“Six, Three Times”).

“My Machine” is only two minutes on the CD, but it is eleven on the vinyl.  The Cd version taken from the middle of the song–where there’s more bass and echoed guitars underneath, while the eleven minute version has soaring guitars and washes of waves moving back and forth.  It’s dreamy and lovely until the ending feedback, of course.  But that fades out and then it’s just relaxing washes of waves until the main melody pokes it head back up briefly and then fades once more.  There’s a kind of rumble for the last minute or so of the extended version which leads into “Farewell” on the vinyl.  But the CD continues with “俺を捨てたところ” (“Just Abandoned Myself”).  On the American release, it’s eighteen minutes long, although it’s only ten minutes on the Japanese version.

The song is a favorite of many fans.  It’s got a totally catchy riff with distant vocals singing a catchy melody.  It’s like 7 minutes of a super catchy metal song with great vocals, a catchy melody and a terrific baseline riff.  There’s some very cool sounds that bounce around the song too.  Around eight minutes the heaviness goes away and soaring guitars take over, but with a low rumble to keep it grounded.  The next six or so minutes are pretty much classic metal drone–two chords repeated slowly while a feebacking guitar wails over the top.  The only difference is the kind of quieter guitar that;s sort of soloing throughout–almost plucking out notes amid the noise.

Pink was reissued in 2016 as a deluxe two disc package.  The second disc is called Forbidden Songs with nine well-produced and great-sounding tracks.

“Your Name Part 2” is dreamy and melodic.  It opens quietly almost like a spaghetti western with some bass notes, soaring guitar notes, and quietly echoed vocals.  “Heavy Rock Industry” starts with some loud droning chords and then about a minute an a half in there’s just drums and Atsuo whooping until the song takes off again.  “SOFUN” is four minutes of a heavy pummeling riff and scorching solos.

“non/sha/lant” is like a heavy short jam with bass riffage and soloing followed by some guitar work.  “Room Noise” is catchy with a cool bassline and soaring guitars.  “Talisman” is slow and heavy with loud distortion.  There’s a shouted chorus with heavy downtuned guitars that makes it almost singalongy.

“N.F. Sorrow” is nearly eight minutes long.  starts off slow with echoed vocals and a shaker.  It’s a quiet moody piece that builds to a heavy chorus with rumbling slow bass.  When the song really gets moving around 6 minutes there’s some great driving bass under Wata’s solo.

“Are You Ready?” is a simple two note riff on the guitar with a chorus of loudly whispered menace.  The song fades on a wild solo.  And the bonus disc ends with the 2 minute “Tiptoe” a quiet piece of gently plucked guitars and echoed notes that resolves into a really catchy melody.

Boris has dozens of records out but this is certainly the place to start–you get to experience pretty much all phases of the band.

[READ: July 21, 2015] “Lost Luggage”

This was the 2015 New Yorker fiction issue.  It featured several stories and several one-page essays from writers I like.  The subject this time was “Time Travel.”

Mueenudin imagines travelling back in time to the 1930s when India was still unified, to visit his father when he was young.

His father was a lawyer and when he studied at Oxford, the girls nicknamed him The Shiek. (more…)

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nydec SOUNDTRACK: BLIND PILOT-Tiny Desk Concert #573 (October 21, 2016).

blind-piot

I really only know Blind Pilot because of NPR–they are favorites of a few of the hosts of All Songs Considered.

I don’t know their music well, but I remember enjoying what I’ve heard.  But I was still surprised by this Tiny Desk Concert because in addition to guitar and drums, there’s an upright bass (bowed and plucked), a ukulele, the ubiquitous Tiny Desk harmonium and a set of vibes!

Evidently since 2008 the band has expanded from a duo to a sextet.

The band plays four songs.  They are lovely folk song.  The vibes add a cool touch to some otherwise simple melodies.  “Umpqua Rushing” is a pretty song with a very catchy bridge.

Introducing “Packed Powder,” Israel Nebeker explains that it stems from when he was a teenager and they used to modify legal fireworks to make them more interesting.  This is my favorite of the four songs primarily because of the wonderful backing vocals during the chorus–when everybody sings “I want to see how the POWDER BURNS!”  It’s a great moment (or three) in the song.

“Don’t Doubt” is a mellow song, quite pretty, with some more lovely harmonies.

They planned to play three songs, but when Israel asks how many they should play, someone on the staff says “…four.”  So someone in the band then says, should we play, “Hot for Teacher” or “Jingle Bells.”  They decide to play “Joik #3.”  Israel explains that it was his first  attempt to write a song called “Joik.”  “I could tell you what that is, but you have Google…and an amazing team of researchers here.”

He says that before the album came out, Ari Shapiro aired it on NPR.  It’s a pretty song and Israel’s voice sounds especially powerful on it.  And, again, when the band sings the loud harmonies, it sounds terrific.

[READ: March 15, 2016] “In Other Rooms, Other Wonders”

Many authors seemed to get two stories in the New Yorker in 2008, but this has to be the closest gap between stories–Sept 15 to Dec 1.

Like the previous Mueenuddin story, the actual story part is pretty simple to recap.  And the sizable length of the story is mostly taken up with details and interior feelings.

And like the previous story, this one is set in Pakistan and looks at someone who might be able to move up a level of class, but who knows that it is a hard road.

The story begins simply enough. Husna needed a job. (more…)

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nySOUNDTRACK: THE SECRET SISTERS-Tiny Desk Concert #564 (September 12, 2016).

secretsisThe Secret Sisters are, in fact, Lydia and Laura Rogers, two sisters from Alabama.  They sing pretty folk/country or even traditional songs and have wonderful harmonies.

“Tennessee River Runs Low” is from the point of view of the river (and is really quite delightful).  It comes complete with an “oh de oh de oh de oh” section.  The music is pretty simple (just a little strummed guitar) and their wonderful voices.

After the first song she says that she has seen lots of Tiny Desk Concerts and they’re thrilled to be there.  It’s more spacious than you might think.  They could square dance there–except they can’t square dance.  She says that it feels kind of like being a zoo animal.

The second song is “a super duper sad song.”  Since their previous record came out they have both gotten married–to different men, she clarifies.  (Well, they are from Alabama, they joke).  They don’t know what to write about anymore–who wants to hear happy songs?

“You’ve Got It Wrong” is indeed a sad ballad–a very pretty, very traditional sounding country song.  Their voices really sell it.

Before the final song, she says that “if you want to be happy and in a good mood don’t ever come to one of our shows.”  They only play downer music. She explains that  they grew up singing gospel in a church that had no musical instruments.  It was only their voices and no solos or choirs.   She didn’t realize they were learning how to sing at church–that’s where their harmonies come from.

So they are doing an old gospel number, “Flee as a Bird.”  The melody of the verses its wonderful–the kind I’ve never heard in a church song before.

I would never see these guys in concert, but fora Tiny Desk, their songs were quite lovely.

[READ: March 7, 2016] “A Spoiled Man”

This was a lengthy story that seemed to speak to the futility of life.

There were a lot of details which made the story really interesting, but as I think about summarizing it, I realize that the story is bombastically a man lives, succeeds, fails and dies.

Fortunately Mueenuddin tells a lovely winding story that shows just how much a man’s life can change.

The story is set in Islamabad and the main character is Rezak, “a small, bowlegged man with a lopsided, battered face.”  He is outside of the mansion of a local man who has recently married an American woman.   The woman proves to be a nice person who genuinely seems to enjoy her new life.  In Pakistan.  And people liked her as well.

Rezak tried to make himself useful around the mansion. Despite his appearance, he is a strong man and he does wind up helping the workers.  At the end of the day they invite him for dinner, but his pride makes him refuse. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: EXPLOSIONS IN THE SKY-Take Care, Take Care, Take Care (2011).

I found out about Explosions in the Sky because of the events of 9/11.  Back when everyone was looking for albums to point fingers at in some kind of hysteria (that’s also how I found out about I am the World Trade Center who are not as exciting as Explosions…).

EITS make beautiful epic instrumental music (as well as the soundtrack for Friday Night Lights).  They play music in a similar vein to Mogwai, but they take their epic instrumentals in a different direction.  And this album is perhaps their most commercial to date (as commercial as you can be when you write 10 minute instrumentals).  And while “commercial” is not usually an adjective that I give as praise, for this album it is indeed.

Take Care, Take Care Take Care is a terrific album.  It ‘s not as visceral as past releases; rather, it seems like a more experienced band playing with their sound and tweaking it in subtle ways to make it less obviously dramatic but somehow more powerful.

On “Last Known Surroundings,” there are soaring guitars that give way to simple, pretty guitar riffs.  Martial drums propel the songs forward, even if they lead to unexpected places.  It’s soundtrack music that’s not background music.

Perhaps the biggest difference with this album and previous ones is that this album doesn’t quite live up to the band’s name.  There’s no major explosive crescendos.  There are noisy bits but they’re not climactic per se.   “Human Qualities” slows to a quiet drum beat and while you’d expect to come out of that with a cacophonous explosion, it doesn’t.  The explosion does come later, but only after it has worked up to it again.

“Trembling Hands” features “voices.”  Or maybe just one voice.  It’s on a loop that becomes more of a sound than a voice.  The song is only 3 minutes long, but it’s an intense 3 minutes–more great drum work on this one.

“Be Comfortable, Creature” has a beautiful delicate guitar opening that drifts into a kind of solo.  After 3 minutes it settles into the main riff, a winding guitar line that send you on a journey.  “Postcard from 1952” is a great song. It begins as quiet intertwining guitars and slowly builds and builds into a gorgeous rocking conclusion.  7 minutes of steady growth with a nice epilogue at the end.

The final song, “Let Me Back In” also has kind of spooky voices that appears throughout the song (distorted and repeated).  But you know this song is a winner from the get go (even if the opening chord structure is a bit like Duran Duran’s “Come Undone.”)  It’s a slow builder, a cool, moody ten minute piece.  When you get to the beautiful descending guitar riff that shoots out after about 2 minutes, it’s an ecstatic moment–air guitars are mandatory.

And let’s talk packaging.  The album comes in a gate-fold type of cardboard.  If you open it up all the way it can be folded into a little house (with windows and a door and a chimney).  That’s pretty cool, guys.

If I have one compliant about the album it’s that the quiets are really quiet and he louds are really loud.  That makes this a very difficult album to listen to say, at work, or basically anywhere where other people will be blown away by your speakers.  The middle of “Human Qualities” for instance, is really quiet, you feel like you need to turn it up to hear the drum beat–there’s too much volume fiddling (listening in the car by yourself negates any reason for this complaint, of course).

Keep it up, guys.

More “controversy” from the band

[READ: September 10, 2011] New Yorker essays

Ten years ago, The New Yorker published several short essays by famous and (to me anyway) not so famous writers.  They were all written directly in the aftermath of the attacks and they were moving and powerful.  I was going to wait until today to re-read them and post about them, but for various reasons, I decided to do it on May 12.

Now, ten years later, The New Yorker has published several more essays by famous and (to me anyway) not so famous writers.  I note that none of the authors are the same (that might have been interesting) although Zadie Smith does quote from John Updike’s piece of ten years ago.

The strange thing to me about these pieces is that ten years seems to have hindered the writers’ ability to focus on the incident and to talk about What It Means.  In this collection of essays, we have a few that talk about an individual and how his life has changed since 9/11.  These are pretty powerful, although it’s odd that they would talk about another person and not themselves. We have a couple of essays that talk about the writer him or herself, but these seem kind of unfocused.  And then we have ones that talk about the state oft he world; honestly, what can you say about that.

It’s possible that I’m jaded or in a bad mood and that’s why I didn’t appreciate these essays.  Or perhaps I’m just facing the futility of things.

This is not to say that I think that writing about 9/11 is easy (you’ll notice I’m not doing it).  Indeed, I think talking about it in any kind of meaningful, non-strident, non-cliched way is nigh impossible.

But these writers do give it a try.  And I am grateful for that. (more…)

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