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Archive for the ‘Herman Hesse’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: OF MONSTERS AND MEN-Live from Iceland Airwaves (2011).

This brief set was recorded at KEX hostel in Reykjavik, Iceland (how on earth KEXP in Seattle was there I don’t know).  This set was performed before the release of their debut EP, although “Dirty Paws” which they play was not on that EP.  “Little Talks” their (reasonably) huge hit them was on the EP and is on their full length album–it’s a great duet (and reminds me a bit of Stars).

There’s an amusing fail in the horn solo on “Lake House,” which is kind of surprising, but not terribly tragic or anything.  The band sounds great, especially in front of a home country crowd (I love hearing them say “Takk” at the end of the songs).  There’s five songs in all, and by  the final one, they feel  sound like they’re really enjoying themselves.

[READ: September 1, 2012] Wampeters, Foma & Granfaloons

This collection contains essays reviews and speeches.  So it’s non-fiction.  Except that, ever the contrarian, Vonnegut includes one fiction piece–a short play.  The title of this book comes from three words from his novel Cat’s Cradle: “a wampeter is an object around which the lives of many otherwise unrelated people may revolve.  The Holy Grail would be a case in point.  Foma are harmless untruths, intended to comfort simple souls.  An example: ‘Prosperity is just around the corner.’ A granfallooon is a proud and meaningless association of human beings.”

That all comes from the preface.  The preface also says that there are people who have collected everything he has ever written (even stuff he has forgotten about) but he will not let most of that see the light of day.  Here he has whittled down the least embarrassing stuff for publication.  He also explains that at some point (supported by reading this) he decided to stop giving speeches; to stop “talking” and to concentrate on writing.  So he did.

The final straw for this was a comment from the President of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.  Vonnegut had prepared a speech.  The president reread it and hated it, but the president told Vonnegut that nobody would actually listen to the words: “People are seldom interested in the actual content of a speech.  They simply want to learn from your tone and gestures and expressions whether or not you are an honest man.”

While Vonnegut’s essays are powerful and effective, it’s the Preface that really tells it straightg.”Not nearly as many Biafrans were butchered by the Nigerians at the end of the war as I had thought would be.  At a minimum those damaged children at the exact middle of the universe will be more honorable than Richard M Nixon.  [Nixon] is the first president to hate the American people and all they stand for.”

Get ready for a happy collection. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: HELIUM-The Dirt of Luck (1995).

Mary Timony fronted Helium for a few years.  In that time she was recognized as something of a guitar wizard–not in her speed and flash, but in the weird sounds she conjured from the instrument.

She also had very peculiar musical sensibilities (these songs are quite odd) and a cool feminist attitude.  This album features the amazing song “Superball” (one of the best songs of the mid 90s–check out the video and watch the guitarist playing the strings with a screwdriver!  Man I miss the 90s) as well as a number of unpolished gems like “Medusa” and “Pat’s Trick” (the dual vocals are very cool and the dispassionate “oh oh oh” is very interesting, plus I love the lyric about “long-ass curly hair”).

Her singing style is often quite slacker-y, like in the opening of “Medusa”–she’s not always audible, and she often seems like a kind of buzzy sound more than a voice.   She sounds like she’s singing from very far away–seemingly powerful and yet quiet at the same time.

But combine that with the cool scratchy/noisy guitar sounds she gets and she’s pulling off a very cool combination (think Dino Jr without the hooks and killer solos).

Like “Baby’s Going Underground” features some crazy shoegazer guitar washes for most of its 6 minutes which really changes the pacing of the record.  There’s also the great “Skeleton,” a riff so cool that Sonic Youth used it for “Sunday.”

She also has a way with haunting melodies as on the piano  instrumental “Comet #9” and on “All the X’s Have Wings” which sounds very medieval. I think of Timony as a guitarist and yet there is there are lots of keyboards on the album too–mystical keyboards that are fascinating and seem out of character with the guitars, but actually work quite well.   But the prettiest song is “Honeycomb.’  It’s a sweet song with a wonderful melody.  It is followed by the ender “Flower of the Apocalypse” a guitar-based instrumental that is mostly feedback but is also surprisingly melodic.

Helium had mild accolades back in the 90s.  They released a couple of albums and then Mary Timony went solo.  It’s nice to have her playing now with Wild Flag.

[READ: November 11, 2011] Five Dials Number 21

This is the first issue of Five Dials that I was ready to read when it was sent to me (I’ve been all caught up for a while now).  So that’s pretty exciting!

I was tempted to say that i enjoyed this issue more than other issues, but I have enjoyed most Five Dials issues equally.  But this one is definitely a favorite.

CRAIG TAYLOR–A Letter from the Editor: On Turning 21 and Thinking About Rock Stars and Greece.
The magazine introduction jokes about them now being legal to drink in the U.S. and also about now being old enough to run for M.P. in England.  He also tells us about their “new” section Our Town, which has vastly expanded in this issue.  He also explains that there are many rock stars on hand to give the magazine tutelage (authors that the rock stars enjoy) and three short stories.  He ends with a notice that they have gone to Greece where they are gathering material for Issue 22. (more…)

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