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Archive for the ‘Larry Niven’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: RONG-“Shrugging at the Dearth of Discourse” (2019).

Every year Lars Gotrich publishes his list of favorite music in an NPR podcast called Viking’s Choice: The Year In The Loud And The Weird.  I always listen to these songs because I’ll never hear them anywhere else (he mostly seems to scour bandcamp for unknown music.

One that he especially liked was by the band Rong from Boston.

He says:

Just bonkers. Boston’s Rong channels the joyous chaos of Japanese punks Melt-Banana and the aggro skronk of Brainiac with a tad of Deerhoof’s weirdo-pop hooks, in what sounds like a swarm of bats fighting a comically large industrial fan… and the bats win. Dissect the noise and you’ll find some truly athletic guitar interplay, held together by a sturdy rhythm section and Olivia W-B’s vocal acrobatics.

This song starts out with Olivia screaming quickly and almost inaudibly while the drummer thrashes away on every surface nearby.  There appears to be two guitars each playing their own riff that seems irrelevant to anything else. It’s a chaotic statement that will likely make most people turn the song off.   After 30 seconds one of the guitars plays a riff and at 35 seconds the riff is actually really catchy and Olivia sings along with it.  Wow.

And the song is not even one third over.

After a few more rounds through similar styles things really slow down around 1:45.  It is just bass and drums and vocals for a bit before two separate solos happen at once.  About five more parts occur before the song ends at 3:11.  This includes a riff that is repeated a few times and a absolutely berzerk ending.

That’s the first of 8 similarly eclectic and, yes, bonkers, songs.  Finding the melody and connections between the parts is rather strangely rewarding.

Incidentally, the final track on the album is called . ༼ ༎ຶ ෴ ༎ຶ༽   In a bigger font, that’s:

༼ ༎ຶ ෴ ༎ຶ༽

[READ: Summer 2019] The Long Cosmos

The “Long Earth” Tetrology is complete.

This was a series that was pretty much impossible to end.  I mean the very premise is that there is unlimited exploration to be had in the various “Earths.”  So how do you end it?  Well, really you end it by following the main protagonist of all of this, Joshua Valiente to his logical conclusion (or something like that).

This book also serves as a kind of reconciliation for many of the estranged characters, but, thankfully does not resurrect any dead characters (well, except for Lobsang–whatever he may be).

The Foreword to this book answers a question that I had: If Terry Pratchett died in 2015, did he have anything to do with this book which came out in 2016?  Baxter explains that indeed, he and Pratchett had created drafts of the final three books by August 2013.  Terry and Stephen worked on the book together as late as autumn 2014.  Then Baxter dealt with final editorial and publishing stages.  So that makes me happy.

I am, as always with this series, puzzled as to what Terry’s contributions were to the books.  I haven’t read anything else by Baxter, so I don’t know if this is a Baxter book with Pratchett sprinkled in or if it’s a combination of their writing styles   The one thing is that this series is never really all that funny (with one huge exception later).  Not to say that Pratchett had to be funny, but it was certainly what he was known for.  Maybe I’ll try a Baxter book one of these days to see just what his works are like.

But back to the concluding chapter of this long series.

This book opens with the invitation: JOIN US. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BRITTANY HOWARD-Tiny Desk Concert #901 (October 15, 2019).

I don’t really like Alabama Shakes because I don’t really like blues rock.

But I have really enjoyed a lot of the Brittany Howard solo songs that I’ve heard (which might make me appreciate the Shakes’ music a bit more).

This Tiny Desk Concert is pretty outstanding and Howard is a terrific frontwoman full of passion and fire.

From the moment Brittany Howard walked into the NPR offices, I could sense her intense commitment and passion. Her eight-piece backing band, all decked out in red and black, played with a soulful subtlety that bolstered Brittany Howard’s tender songs about her family — stories of a mixed-race child growing up in Alabama.

She plays four songs.

All the songs performed at the Tiny Desk come from Jaime, an album Brittany Howard dedicated to her sister who died at the age of 13 from a rare form of eye cancer, the same disease that has left Brittany Howard partially blind in one eye.

I have heard a few songs form this album, but the one I know the best is “Stay High.”  This pretty song starts with Lloyd Buchanan playing a kind of bell melody on the keys.  There’s also gentle acoustic guitars from Alex Chakour (whom she calls the crown jewel).  As the image fades in, some simple bass from Zac Cockrell is added and then some drums from the amazing Nate Smith.  And then it’s all about Brittany.  She lives these songs as she sings them.  When you add in the pretty backing vocals from Shanay Johnson and Karita Law the songs sounds even more amazing than on the record.

On these songs (and in particular at this Tiny Desk Concert), there is more nuance than I’ve heard in Brittany’s past projects, including her work with Alabama Shakes and Thunderbitch.

It’s this more complex music that I find so appealing about these new songs.  But also that Howard seems to be having a really good time singing them.

After the first song she says, To all them people on YouTube I’ll let you know its hot in here.  All the bands about to go on… know to dress light.

Up next is “Georgia.”  The blurb says:

The music has a sense of wonder and playfulness, even when the subject is heavy, as in “Georgia.” She tells the audience that it’s a tale of “a little young, black, gay girl having a crush on an older black girl and not knowing what to say and how I was feeling.”

This is a song where it’s nice that Nate Smith is visible because his playing is dynamic, including the rumbling crashes he adds (electronically) throughout the verses.  Buchanan plays church-sounding organ while washes of keys from Paul Horton (Brittany’s cousin) fill in behind the song.  There’s also a buzzing guitar solo from Brad Allen Williams as the song builds and builds.  This is a powerful song that really brings you right into the words.

Britanny says she’s wanted to write songs like this since she picked up a guitar when she was 11 years old.

Brittany Howard knows how to tell a story, to foster empathy and understanding and, in this intimate setting, the songs feel at home. The connection with the audience felt visceral … even a small child in the arms of their parent screamed at the appropriate moment during the climax of Brittany’s song, “Baby.” It gave us all a good laugh just when the weight of the words felt the heaviest.

She introduces “Baby” as “a love song.  Love.  Doesn’t it just give you chills.  But sometimes love is not 100%.  Sometimes you got that 80/20 split and you’re on the bad side.”  This song starts quietly but builds and builds to a huge moment as Brittany and the backing vocalists sing “Baby!”  The song hits a full pause and you hear a child scream.  She points at the child, smiles and says “Now pick that shit back up” as the band rocks out some more.  As the song nears the end, she says, “Fool me once.  Fool me twice.  Fool three times?  (the band plays two hits) not three times (hit hit) as the song ends.

She says, “Thanks to the little one for hitting the right notes at the right time–I gave him a record before we came out.”

The final song is “Goat Head” a shocking song of growing up as an interracial child.   It’s amazing she can dance to it when there are lyrics like:

See, tomatoes are green
And cotton is white
My heroes are black
So why God got blue eyes?
My daddy, he stayed
My grandmama’s a maid
My mama was brave
To take me outside
‘Cause mama is white
And daddy is black
When I first got made
Guess I made these folks mad
See, I know my colors, see
But what I wanna know is
Who slashed my dad’s tires and put a goat head in the back?
I guess I wasn’t supposed to know that, too bad
I guess I’m not supposed to mind ’cause I’m brown, I’m not black
But who said that?
See, I’m black, I’m not white
But I’m that, nah, nah, I’m this, right?
I’m one drop of three-fifths, right?

But the introductory guitar riff is really catchy.  When the main verse starts the music is menacing and pretty at the same time.

It’s a short song bt very powerful.  And its a fantastic ending to this Concert.

[READ: November 16, 2019] “The Final Frontier”

I haven’t read a lot by Michael Chabon, but what I have read, I have enjoyed.

This is an essay about his dying father and their connection through Star Trek.  Specifically, he tells his father, “I love Mr. Spock because he reminds me of you.”

Although this essay was lovely and heart-felt, perhaps the most mind-blowing (or mind-melding) moment for me was learning that Chabon is a  writer, producer and showrunner of the upcoming Star Trek: Picard.  Since I’m a TNG fan more than an Original Series fan, I’m pretty exited about this.

As a kid Chabon had written stories that were like Sherlock Holmes or Robert E. Howard  or Larry Niven or even Edgar Rice Burroughs.  But never Trek.  He didn’t have the means or the chutzpah to do it until now. (more…)

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