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Archive for the ‘Kelly Link’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: ANNA MEREDITH-Tiny Desk Concert #713 (March 2, 2018).

I have never heard anything like this.  From sound to melody, to intensity, to instrumentation, this whole thing just rocked my world.

The melody for “Nautilus” is just so unexpected.  It opens with an echoed horn sound repeating.  And then the melody progresses up a scale, but not a scale, a kind of modified scale that seems off kilter just as it seems familiar.  The cello plays it, the guitar plays it, the sousaphone (!) plays it.  And it continues on in like fashion until only the high notes remain and then a menacing low riff on sousaphone cello and guitar breaks through–a great villain soundtrack if ever there was.  While everyone plays this riff, Anna returns to the keys to play the modified scale.

Meanwhile, the drummer has looked like he’s asleep behind his small kit.  And then 3 anda half minutes in he wakes up and starts playing a loud but slow rhythm.  The guitar begins soloing and as it fades out that main riff begins, now with a simple drum beat–not matching what anyone else is playing, mind you.  The sousaphone (which must have an echo on it or something and the cello pick up the low menace and it seems like everybody is doing his and her own thing.  But it all works amazingly.

So just who is Anna Meredith?

Anna Meredith was a former BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra Composer in Residence. Two of the three songs performed here come from her 2016 release called Varmints.

Bob Boilen was also impressed when he first saw Anna Meredith live:

I first saw this British composer a year ago, in a stunning performance at the SXSW musical festival. It was one of the best concerts of my life. The music I heard sent me into a state of reverie. If music could levitate my body, this is how it would sound. It carried me away and thrilled my soul. I was giddy for days.

Now, I know this isn’t music for everyone. … But if you know and love the music of Philip Glass, King Crimson or Steve Reich — music that’s electrifying, challenging and sonically soars and ripples through your body — then crank this up.

Lest you worry that she couldn’t translate it to the Tiny Desk (she says they normally have 23 suitcases full of crap so this has been an exciting challenge to squeeze in here)

Out of nearly 700 performances at the Tiny Desk, this is simply the most exhilarating one I’ve experienced. The instrumentation is unusual, with pulsing bass sounds produced by a wonderful combination of cello, tuba and electronics. It’s all rhythmically propelled by an astonishing drummer and Meredith pounding a pair of floor toms. And much of the repetitive melody is keyboard-and-guitar-driven that morphs and erupt with earth-shaking fervor.

The second song, “Ribbons” is quieter.  It’s and new song and it has vocals.  Her vocals aren’t great (“hard when you’ve got the voice of a five-year old boy”) but the melody she builds around it shows that her  voice is just one more instrument (albeit saying interesting words).  Actually, that’s not fair, they are just so different from the noise of the other two songs that it feels very faint in comparison.

It opens with a quiet guitar and electronic drum.  And slowly everyone else joins in.  A nice string accompaniment from the cello (Maddie Cutter), bass notes on the sousaphone (Tom Kelly) and even backing vocals from everyone.  By the third go around the drummer (Sam Wilson) is playing the glockenspiel.  By that time the song has built into a beautiful round and the quietness of her voice makes complete sense.  As the song nears its end, Sam has switches to a very fast but quiet rhythm on the floor tom.

She introduces the band and wishes a happy birthday to guitarist Jack Ross.  She says this is a great present as “so far all we’ve gotten him is an apple corer, the gifts have been a bit low grade.”

They make some gear switches, “we have a bit of a logistics problem with all our gear we can’t quite afford to bring enough glockenspiels, we pass the pure crap glockenspiel  around ans everyone gets to go ‘my turn!'”

“The Vapours” opens with a wonderfully wild guitar riff–fast and high-pitched and repeated over and over.  Anna Meredith adds waves of synths and then in comes the sousaphone and plucked cello.  Then fast thumping on the floor tom propels the song along.  The song slows a bit a Anna plays the clarinet (!).  The song dramatically shifts to some complicated time signature while Anna plays glockenspiel.  After a few rounds, while this complex guitar riff continues the drum and sousaphone start playing a pretty standard beat the contradicts everything else that’s going on and then Anna just starts pounding the crap out of some more toms.

All through this there are electronic sounds adding to the chaos and I have no idea who is triggering them, but it’s really cool.

The end is almost circusy with the big sousaphone notes and yet it’s like no circus anyone has every heard.  When the camera pulls back and you can see everyone working so hard and yet smiling ear to ear (especially Maddie), you know this is some great stuff.

The end of the song winds up with a hugely complicated tapping melody on the guitar and everyone else working up a huge sweat.

I couldn’t get over how much I loved this.  I immediately ordered Varmints and checked her touring schedule.

How disappointed was I to see that Anna Meredith had played Philly just last month and has now gone back to Europe!  I do hope she comes back soon.

[READ: August 30, 2017] McSweeney’s 48

For some reason, I find the prospect of reading McSweeney’s daunting.  I think it’s because I like to post about every story in them, so I know I’m in for a lot of work when I undertake it.

And yet I pretty much always enjoy every piece in each issue.  Well, that explains why it took me some three years to read this issue (although I did read Boots Riley’s screenplay in under a year).

This issue promised: “dazzling new work; a screenplay from Boots Riley with a septet of stories from Croatia.”

LETTERS

GARY RUDOREN writes about using the Giellete Fusion Platinum Razor every day for 18 days and how things were good but have gotten a little ugly.  On day 24 he had a four-inch gash under his nose.  Later on Day 38 it was even worse–a face full of bloody tissue squares.  By day 67 he is writing to thank McSweeney’s for whatever they did perhaps it was the medical marijuana but now his face is baby butt smooth even without shaving.  He wants to change the slogan to Gilette Fusion the shave that lasts forever. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE LEEVEES-Hanukkah Rocks (2005).

The collection of Hanukkah songs is fantastic. I love this album more than a guy who doesn’t celebrate Hanukkah should.

The LeeVees are Adam Gardener from Guster and Dave Schneider  from The Zambonis (with help from The Time Share Choir).  Dave and Adam write super catchy poppy-but-rocking songs all about the holiday.  Most of them are funny or have a humorous aspect, but the songs all rock and stand up to repeated listens.

“Latke Clan” begins as a sweet ode to everyone’s favorite potato pancake  “Santa is cool but Hanukkah Harry’s the man, come and join of Latke Clan.”

“Applesauce vs Sour Cream” is the perennial decision you have to make with your latkes.  “just tell you mom to fry, not bake.”

“Goyim Friends” Goyim friends make lists and get snowboards and paintball guns, but “we will march on, six pairs of socks from each other’s mom.”

“At the Timeshare” is a hilarious, catchy song.  It’s swinging and loungey and is all about their parents wanting to live down at the time share in Boca or was it Boynton.  Or Daytona. Or Talahassee (There’s no Jews there).

“How do you spell Channukkahh?” is a hilarious goof on the spelling of this holiday and it totally rocks.

“Kugel” is a sweet mournful song about how times change–“you were once sweet and creamy, no you’re low-fat.”

“Jewish Girls”  Go to the mitzvah Ball, you may be surprised to find who is in the tribe.

“Gelt Melts”  This punky number says what everyone knows–if you keep the gelt in your pocket, you’ll be sorry.  “If goys can eat an Easter Bunny, why can’t we eat chocolate money.”

“Nun, Gimmel Heh Shin”  Yup, a dreidel song without the music from the dreidel song.

“There’s” also a bonus track called “Holiday,” a simple acoustic guitar song with the two guys singing about a lovely relaxing holiday.

[READ: December 20, 2017] “The Game of Smash and Recovery”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This year, there are brief interviews with each author posted on the date of their story.

Hello. Welcome. It’s finally here: Short Story Advent Calendar time.

If you’re reading along at home, now’s the time to start cracking those seals, one by one, and discover some truly brilliant writing inside. Then check back here each morning for an exclusive interview with the author of that day’s story.

(Want to join in? It’s not too late. Order your copy here.)

This year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection.

This was one of those stories where the character and setting are otherworldly–completely alien.  The main characters have a full story arc, and yet we are never provided any kind of context for where or even what they are.

The question is, of course, does it matter.

In some respects, no, and yet it is so frustrating to read this whole thing and have so many fundamental questions unanswered.

The main character is Anat.  She loves Oscar, her brother, who has raised her practically from childhood.  Their parents have been absent for as long as she can remember.  They left when they realized that Anat was different–what was she? (more…)

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kelly-linkSOUNDTRACK: THE DUDE OF LIFE & PHISH-Crimes of the Mind (1994).

Crimes of the Mind is the debut album from The Dude of Life, Steve Pollak, a childhood friend of Trey Anastasio and a lyrical contributor to many of Phish’s early songs. Phish is the backing band for the entire album.

The album was recorded in 1991 but wasn’t released until 1994. The Dude of Life performed several of these songs in a live setting with Phish on a number of occasions.

Of all of the “Phish” albums, this is the one I listen to the least.

The main riff of “Chalkdust Torture” was used in the song “Self” on this album.

Dude

“Dahlia” is a kind of sloppy rock song—it certainly has a Phish feel to it, but as soon as the vocals come in, you know it’s going to be different.  Lyrically, however, it sounds a lot like crazy early Phish—a song about a girl who is a little nuts and a really catchy melody.  The song has a weird climax with the sucking Cherry Charms Blow Pops line.

“Family Picture” opens with a watery bass, it has a kind of silly Phish-iness to it—you wouldn’t be surprised if Phish played it but again, although Dude’s voice makes it much sillier.  Once again there’s a fun chorus and a rather silly guitar solo.  “Self” is a wonderfully selfish song (“I don’t care about anyone but myself”).  I also like that he rhymes “bluer” with “sewer.”  Once the song starts rocking, it features the main riff as “Chalkdust Torture” and then it really takes off.

“Crimes of the Mind” is a simple song with a catchy chorus.  “She’s Bitchin’ Again” has a very cool guitar riff and motif, and while the lyrics are funny, the addition of the woman bitchin’ at him is a bit much (especially since her voice is quite unpleasant and isn’t quite singing).  “TV Show” is the first thing that’s close to a ballad.  It starts slowly but after the sound of keyboards building and ramping up, the song kicks into high gear with the chorus of “life is a TV show that should have been canceled long ago.”  “Trials and Tribulations” is a funny/weird romantic song about the Swiss Miss, Captain Crunch and Mr Clean, with a cute melody for the guitar riff.

“Lucy in the Subway” is of course a kind of follow up/piss take on “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.”  It sounds nothing like The Beatles’ song, being a simple, rather than psychedelic song, but that befits the tone about a girl down on her luck–she is “with daffodils” if you were wondering about the D).   “Ordinary Day” is the kind of simple song—singing about nothing happening—that makes you wonder how people write them.  “Revolution’s Over” is as close to punk as this line up will get—fast drums, fast tinny guitar and a quick riff.  The middle has some funky weird jam stuff

“King of Nothing” is a slow, almost ponderous song (except that Dude’s voice is more goofy than deep).

Since Pollak contributed much to Phish’s early silliness it’s not surprising that these songs are rather silly too.  But the band plays really well and holds it all together.

[READ: November 14, 2016] Stone Animals

Back in 2014, I ordered all 16 books from Madras Press. believing that I’d been told about a cool gem of a publisher.  And I had been. Unfortunately, after publishing the 16 books they seem to have gone out of business or so. They still have a web presence where you can buy remaining copies of books.  But what a great business idea this is/was

Madras Press publishes limited-edition short stories and novella-length booklets and distributes the proceeds to a growing list of non-profit organizations chosen by our authors.  The format of our books provides readers with the opportunity to experience stories on their own, with no advertisements or miscellaneous stuff surrounding them.

The format is a 5″ x 5″ square books that easily fit into a pocket.

Proceeds from Link’s book go to The Fistula Foundation.

Many of the books from Madras Press have been unusual–some of them downright surreal.  And this book, which finished up series 3, is no exception.

I started to read this when I was on a camping trip–I was tired and exhausted from a long day, and I genuinely thought I was having lack of concentration issues because this story didn’t really seem logical.  When I read it again in the light of day, it still didn’t exactly seem logical, but I was able to follow it a little better.

The story follows a family–husband and wife and two kids.  They are moving from New York City to the suburbs.  The house that they are purchasing has two giant stone rabbits on the front porch.  The children’s don’t want to leave the city exactly but the adults are pleased with the house. (more…)

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thrilignSOUNDTRACK: ADIA VICTORIA-Tiny Desk Concert #545(June 30, 2016).

adiaAdia Victoria has a rough, raw voice that goes well with her simple, exposed guitar sound.  The blurb says her music “carries the singular perspective of a Southern black woman with a Seventh Day Adventist upbringing, who never felt like she’d fit in.”

She sings three song, mostly in a great, raspy voice.  For “Stuck in the South” she actually seems to be gritting her teeth as she sings: “I don’t know nothing ’bout Southern belles / but I can tell you something ’bout Southern hell.”  When the first verse ends, and her band kicks in, it adds such interesting textures.  a distorted bass and a lead guitar playing quietly distorted sounds.  This song is really captivating.

“And Then You Die” with its swirling sounds and keyboards has a very distinctly Nick Cave feel–gothic in the Southern sense of the word.  Indeed, the first verse is spoken in a delivery that would make Nick proud. This is no to say she cribbed from Cave but it would work very well as a companion song  I really like the way it builds, but the ending is so abrupt–I could have used some more verses.

After the second song the band heads away and Bob says “They’re all leaving you.”  She looks at them and growls, “Get off the stage!” to much laughter.

She sings the final song “Heathen” with just her on acoustic guitar.  It is a simple two chord song.  It’s less interesting than the others, but again, it’s the lyrics that stand out: “I guess that makes me a heathen, something lower than dirt / I hear them calling me heathen, ooh like they think it hurts.”

I’m curious to hear just what Adia would do with these songs when she’s not in this Tiny format.  I imagine she can be really powerful.

[READ: November 23, 2016] McSweeney’s Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales

For some reason or another I have put off reading this McSweeney’s volume for many years.  This is technically McSweeney’s #10, although it was also released in this printing from a  major publisher. Sadly for me, my McSweeney’s subscription had expired sometime around here so I’ve never actually seen the “official” Volume 10 which I understand has the exact same content but a slightly different cover.

One of the reasons I’ve put off reading this was the small print and pulpy paper–I don’t like pulpy paper.  And it was pretty long, too.

But I think the big reason is that I don’t really like genre fiction.  But I think that’s the point of this issue.  To give people who read non-genre fiction some exposure to genre stuff.

Interestingly I think I’ve learned that I do enjoy some genre fiction after all.  And yet, a lot of the stories here really weren’t very genre-y.  Or very thrilling.  They seemed to have trappings of genre ideas–mystery, horror–but all the while remaining internal stories rather than action-packed.

Which is not to say I didn’t enjoy anything here. I enjoyed a bunch of the stories quite a bit, especially if I didn’t think of them as genre stories.  Although there were a couple of less than exiting stories here, too. (more…)

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