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Archive for the ‘Isabel Allende’ Category

bolano SOUNDTRACK: SUFJAN STEVENS Christmas Unicorn: Songs for Christmas, Vol. X (2010).

sufjan 10This is the final disc in the second Sufjan Steven Christmas box set.  It is comprised of mostly shorter songs except for the final one which is 13 minutes long.

Interspersed in the disc are three short instrumentals (under a minute each).  “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear” “Angels We Have Heard On High” and “We Three Kings” are all pretty with flutes and minimal electronics.

The more traditional songs are “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” which sounds very much like a Sufjan song with some fun electronic sounds and orchestration and some unusual vocals.  “Up on the Housetop” features lots of drums and layered vocals. It is the standard version but tinkered with with in fun ways.  “We Need a Little Christmas” is a fun and traditional version with choral vocals.

The other three tracks are originals from Sufjan.  “Happy Karma Christmas” a slow track of mostly drums and echoed vocals. It reminds me of Beck’s discoey electronic moments.  “Justice Delivers Its Death” is based on the lyrics of “Silver and Gold” (from Rudolph) but it is a much darker song (obviously, given the title) and sounds nothing like it.

The final track is “Christmas Unicorn.”  It’s a sweet song with funny/thoughtful lyrics.  After three minutes it turns into a nice instrumental.  At the four minute mark a new refrain begins. It sounds like the song is going to fade to end, but it doesn’t. At 6:30, drums come back in and the song takes off with more singers and a fugue style of interweaving vocals.  At 7:36 a new melody is introduced which is, Joy Divisions’ “Love will Tear Us Apart.” They incorporate that into the fugue vocals and it works very well.  It’s a strange song and very unChristmassey, but it’s very cool and quite catchy by the end.

I don’t enjoy this second box set as much as the first, since it is so unChristmassey, but it has some really interesting songs on it.

[READ: December 13, 2014] Bolaño: A Biography in Conversations

I don’t often read biographies about authors I like, but once in a while one will catch my eye.  I knew Maristain’s name from Bolaño’s last published interview, so I was curious what she would do with this collection.  It was translated by Kit Maude, and I am also curious about some of the words that Maude chose to use (the word savage/savages comes up an awful lot when not referring to The Savage Detectives).  But overall it was an easy, quick read.

As the subtitle suggests, Maristain has compiled a loose biography of Bolaño based on interviews with others.  Some are interviews that she has conducted and others are previously existing interviews that she has cobbled together.  The people interviewed are primarily his family and his fellow poets/novelists/friends.

Bolaño was born April 28 1953 in Santiago de Chile.  Soon after, they moved to Valparaiso, and then other smaller towns in Chile. In 1968 they moved to the Mexico City because of his mother’s asthma (although he never set foot in Sonora, the scene of the crimes in 2666). They lived close to the Olympic park and were within walking distance of the Olympic torch during the 1968 Olympics.

He had a difficult upbringing, with his parents splitting up and his mother moving out and taking his sister with her.  Roberto, meanwhile, stayed with his father.  They eventually had a falling out and Roberto went twenty years without seeing him.  His father was a boxer and an opinionated man, and there are lots of quotes from him in the book.

In 1977 Bolaño left Mexico for Spain (and never went back) and that’s when we start getting into his publishing history. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PUBLIC ENEMY-Fear of a Black Planet (1990).

NPR recently broadcast a PE show from the All Tomorrow’s Parties Festival.  I didn’t know that PE was still touring, so that was a surprise to me.  The show was largely a celebration of Fear of a Black Planet, which meant that I had to go back and listen to the original.

Man, is this a solid album.  The lyrics pack a punch even twenty years later and what is perhaps more amazing is that the sound collages that Terminator X created, which were something of an oppressive sonic assault are now fairly mainstream-sounding (forward thinking or what?).

What I like about this (and most PE) albums, is that  they have little skits between songs, but unlike most rap skits they’re not one-not jokes that you listen to once and then skip every future time.  A wonderful skit (for lack of a better word) is “Incident at 66.6 FM” in which we hear an amazing amount of racist epithets thrown at PE apparently on the radio.  Or the rather disturbing “Meet the G That Killed Me.”  “Anti-Nigger Machine” is a great collage of samples like “Think” and James Brown and a dozen more songs.

“Can’t Do Nuttin for Ya, Man!” is a (sort of) comic song from Flav that is catchy as anything. While “Reggie Jax” is a confusingly titled song that has nothing to do with baseball, but everything to do with funk.

Of course, this disc has some of PE’s best songs as well.  From the awesome “911 is a Joke” to one of the best rap songs ever, “Welcome to the Terrordome” (my favorite story of this song is when I was wearing a  Welcome to the Terrordome shirt and my philosophy professor asked me quite pointedly, “What in the hell is a terrordome.”  That was a fun conversation).  “Terrordome” is still amazing–powerful, musically intense and for all of its lyrical acuity, it still has funny moments….boing.

And of course, “Burn Hollywood Burn” is an amazing critique of the movie industry (and it’s catchy too).  I got Black Caesar back at the crib, right Lar?

I’ve always been a little confused by “Pollywannacracker.”  Not lyrically, but vocally, as Chuck’s (is it really Chuck?) voice is treated in a surprisingly tinny way.  I liked the song more on this listen than any other, I guess in the past it just kind of snuck by me.

The album is a little front loaded with greatness.   “Power to the People” is another powerful song, but it’s not quite as memorable as the other tracks.  “Fear of a Black Planet” has some really cool sounds on it (where did they get that “black man, black woman, black baby” sample?).   “Revolutionary Generation” is a great track in which Chuck and Flav stand up for black women: “R-E-S-P-E-C-T, my sister’s not my enemy.”  Not your average rap subject.

And the last couple of proper songs, “B Side Wins Again” and “War at 33 1/3” are fast paced and furious, but they don’t really have much in the way of a hook.  Nevertheless, lyrically they are really great, and I love to hear Chuck D flow that quickly.

The biggest surprise for me is the censored version of “Fight the Power” (the song that got me into PE in the first place, thanks Spike).  It’s really surprising to me that PE allowed their music to be bleeped–unless it was just for a deliberate radio play (which I can accept).  Although they also list a title as “Leave This Off You Fu*Kin Charts” (did I buy a Columbia House version or something?)

This is an amazing album, one that still sounds fresh and sadly, is still relevant.

[READ: October 15, 2011] Between Parentheses

I never expected to get so addicted to Roberto Bolaño.  And despite his death, there is no shortage of works coming out in English (that is one of the advantages to reading a translated author–even death doesn’t cease the available materials).  Indeed, this year alone, New Directions is publishing Between Parentheses, and Tres and FSG is publishing The Third Reich (a collection of non fiction, a collection of poetry and a novel respectively).

When I really get into an author, I fall for his or her works, not necessarily him or her as a person (heck, some author are downright jerks).  But there are some authors that I want to know about, personally.  Bolaño is a pretty polarizing figure–he seems obnoxious, his works don’t shy away from very specific opinions, and sometimes it’s unclear what kind of views Bolaño himself has in his works (or if he’s even telling the truth about his so-called truths).  One thing in particular is the constant use of the word “faggot.”  It is used often in 2666 (and I know that is a translator’s choice, but still) and used derogatorily.  Now, clearly the context is everything for something like that.  But it seems to speak badly of Bolaño.  And yet, when reading these essays he is not homophobic in the least.  He is obviously well aware of institutionalized homophobia in Latin America, and he is obviously not supportive of it.

But that’s just one interesting thing about this book.  So let me back up. (more…)

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