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Archive for the ‘Ryan Boudinot’ Category

14

SOUNDTRACK: DEFTONES-Diamond Eyes (2010).

diamondBefore releasing Diamond Eyes, Deftones had two band crises. The first was that they didn’t really seem to like each other anymore.  The previous album was fraught with tension and they barely toured.  After deciding that they wanted to remain as a band, they were invigorated and made an album called Eros.  But during the recording, bassist Chi Cheng was in a car accident and was in a coma.  As of yet he has not fully recovered.  So they shelved Eros, hired a temporary bass player Sergio Vega and set about recording Diamond Eyes.  And for whatever reason, it proved to be one of their best releases so far.

“Diamond Eyes” opens with a heavy down-tuned guitar–very abrasive–until the chorus come in and it’s their most beautiful ones yet–with soaring keyboards and  harmonies.  And then the heavy guitars come back–it’s what Deftones do so well–beauty and ugly together.  Stephen Carpenter really shines, as always.  “Royal” is a fast song with a great harmonizing chorus.  “Cmnd/Ctrl” has a shocking low riff that explodes into a  bright chorus.  “You’ve Seen the Butcher” has guitars that seem almost untuned as the song starts.  But it morphs into a kind of sexy butt-shaking chorus.  And Abe Cunningham’s drums are, of course, fantastic.

“Beauty School” is the first that doesn’t really start out heavy, it’s a got a gentle guitar intro and the first song where Vega’s bass is really prominent as a separate instrument and it creates a beautiful alternative song–great vocals throughout.  “Prince” brings in a lot of new textures to the album, including a clanging guitar sound and a great screamed chorus. “Rocket Skates” is one of my favorite songs on the record, it has a classic metal riff and the great screamed-beyond-comprehension chorus of Guns, Razors Knives and a weird little whoooo that ends the chorus.

“Sextape” is a surprisingly gentle song, opening with an echoed guitar riff and one of Chino’s most gentle choruses.  “976-Evil” has an echoey guitar and voices not unlike the Cocteau Twins.  “This Place is Death” has another great alt rock feel–a big song with bright guitars and dark lyrics.  I haven’t really mentioned Frank Delgado on keyboards and samples.  He’s been with the band since White Pony, and I feel like his presence was made notable on a few songs here and there.  But it seems like on this disc he really comes to the fore, adding new textures and sounds to the album which really fill it out.

[READ: March 12, 2013] McSweeney’s #14

After the colorful extravaganza of the Comics Issue of McSweeney’s #13, this book settles down into something more somber  The book is softcover and all white.  The cover depicts a cartoon of George Bush with both legs blown off and the caption, “I Am So, So Sorry.”  On the spine in small print: “We’re praying as fast as we can.”  It is the most context-full cover they’ve done yet and, nearly a decade away it seems like a rather mean cover, but if I remember correctly at the time it seemed apt and delicious, especially in light of the upcoming election.

Yet despite the overtly political cover, the content inside is not political or even thematic (although it is pretty dark stuff).  Nevertheless, the table of contents gives us a small joke when it says “To help you know which stories to read first, we have indicated with either a * or a † those that deserve special consideration from you, the reader.  If you see either a * or a †, do not miss that story.”  Of course every story has either a * or a † but they cleverly did not put any kind of pattern to the symbols.

The colophon explains that when they were in Ireland, they met an actual Timothy McSweeney.  He had been given a copy of Issue #3 and then promptly forgot about the magazine.  But when McSweeney’s was in Galway to do a reading at the Galway Arts Festival, Timothy (Ted) McSweeney traveled from Dublin to check it out (not a short trip).  This also resulted in a letter from Mr McSweeney which is actually quite funny.

There are also illustrations in the book, although they are small illustrations and are placed on the title of each piece in the book.  All of the illustrations are old, mostly coming from the 1800s, although one dates back to 1670.  They illustrations are all technical scientific ones and don’t have anything to do with the stories. (more…)

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12SOUNDTRACK: FRANK OCEAN-“Bad Religion” (2012).

frankoI didn’t know anything about Frank Ocean until I started looking at all of the  Best Albums of 2012 lists.  He was on everyone’s list and was pretty near the top of all of them.  So it was time to check him out.

It  turns out that he’s affiliated with the Odd Future collective, whom I’ve talked about in the past.  But he’s also been on a lot of big name records.  Channel Orange is his debut album (that’s not a mixtape) and the big surprise seems to be that this song (which he sang live on Jimmy Fallon) is about a male lover.  And I guess that’s progress.

So Ocean sings a slow R&B style, and I have to say his voice reminds me of Prince a lot.  Which is a good thing.  I really like this song.    It has gospelly keyboards (but in that Purple Rain kinda way).  And a really aching vocal line.  It’s really effective and it’s really simple.  And I think that’s what I liked best about this song and others that I’ve heard–he’s really understated.  Crazy, I know.

Now I do not like R&B, it’s one of the few genres that I just don;t get.  And yet there’s something about this album (the tracks I’ve listened to) that is really compelling.  It’s not awash in over the top R&B trappings, and it doesn’t try too hard.  It’s just Frank  (not his real name) and his voice over some simple beats.  A friend of mine recently said that all of a sudden she “got” this album, and  I think I may have to get it as well.

[READ: December 30, 2012] McSweeney’s #12

At the beginning of 2012, I said I’d read all of my old McSweeney’s issues this year.  I didn’t.  Indeed, I put it off for quite a while for no especial reason.  Now as the year draws to an end, I’m annoyed that I didn’t read them all, but it’s not like I read nothing.  Nevertheless, I managed to read a few in the last month and am delighted that I finished this one just under the wire.  For those keeping track, the only issues left are 13, 14, 15, 16, 20, 10, 38, (which I misplaced but have found again) and 42, which just arrived today.  My new plan in to have those first four read by Easter.  We’ll see.

So Issue #12 returns to a number of different fun ideas.  The cover:  It’s a paperback, but you can manipulate the front and back covers to make a very cool 3-D effect (by looking through two eyeholes) with a hippo.  The colophon/editor’s note is also back.  Someone had complained that he missed the small print ramble in the beginning of the book and so it is back, with the writer (Eggers? Horowitz?) sitting in Wales, in a B&B, and hating it.  It’s very funny and a welcome return.

As the title suggests, all of the stories here are from unpublished authors.  They debate about what exactly unpublished means, and come down on the side of not well known.  And so that’s what we have here, first time (for the mos part) stories.  And Roddy Doyle.

There are some other interesting things in this issue.  The pages come in four colors–each for a different section.  The Letters/Intro page [white], the main stories [pink], the Roddy Doyle piece (he’s not unpublished after all so he gets his own section) [gray] and the twenty minute stories [yellow].  There’s also photographs (with captions) of Yuri Gagarin.  And a series of drawing that introduce each story called “Dancewriting”–a stick figure on a five-lined staff.  They’re interesting but hard to fathom fully.

LETTERS (more…)

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41

SOUNDTRACK: SWANS-Live at All Tomorrow’s Parties, October 2, 2011 (2011).

swansatpBefore Swans released this year’s amazing The Seer, they toured supporting their previous album (with a number of songs from The Seer included). This set has two songs from The Seer, “The Apostate” and “The Seer, Pt 1” together they comprise 50 minutes of the nearly two hour show.  The set also includes “No Words No Thoughts” (24 minutes) and “Jim” (a teeny 6 minutes) from 2010’s My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky.  The final track is an eleven minute version of “I Crawled” which goes all the way back to 1984’s Young God EP.

I would never have thought of Swans as a jam band, and yet here they are, with 5 songs in 2 hours.  Although unlike jam bands, they aren’t showing off their musical chops or noodling solos, they are created expressive and moody soundscapes–not as scary as in days of old, but very intense nonetheless.

The set sounds great, although I imagine this would be more enjoyable to watch than to listen to (there a great swaths of music where there’ s not a lot happening).  I wonder what Gira is doing during these stretches.  My friend Phil (or Phillipe Puleo as Gira calls him here) plays drums on the album and on this tour, and I have to say he must be exhausted–man he hits the drums hard.

I listened to this show before I heard The Seer, but it didn’t prepare me for what the album would contain.  Now having heard that album, I appreciate this live show even more–they really master these long songs.  I am going to have to try to see them the next time they swing by.  I admit I used to be afraid at the thought of seeing them because their early music was so intense, but this seems to be a different Swans now, one that an old man like myself could even handle.

The set is no longer available on NPR.

[READ: December 10, 2012] McSweeney’s #41

The cover of this issue has a series of overlapping photographs of lightning.  I didn’t really look at it that closely at first and thought it was an interesting collage.  Indeed, Sarah said it looked like a science textbook of some kind.  But when I read the colophon, I learned that Cassandra C. Jones finds photographs of lightning and (without manipulating them digitally) places them together so that the lightning bolts create shapes.  And indeed, that is what is going on.  And it’s amazing!

The cover’s pictures create a greyhound running (front and back covers show different stages of the run).  There’s also circles and a rabbit running.  It’s incredibly creative and very cool.  You can see some of her work at her site.

The feature of this issue is that there are four stories from Australian Aboriginal Writers, a group that I can honestly say I have never read anything from before.  There’s also beautiful art work accompanying most of the longer stories, three gritty non-fiction pieces and some letters, most of which aren’t very silly at all.

LETTERS (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PJ HARVEY-Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea. (2000).  

When this disc came out it was greeted with rounds of praise.  And it’s easy to see why.  It’s a mature album and it seems very New York City (or, perhaps, more specifically, it seems very Patti Smith–“Good Fortune” practically has Smith singing–I mean the way she says “Little Italy” could have been sampled from Smith).

And after the somewhat wispy Is This Desire and the stopgap Dance Hall at Louse Point, it was great to hear PJ back in full swing. These songs are stripped down (but not raw like her early albums) and most of them pack a punch.  And I just read this quite from PJ  in Q Magazine:

I want this album to sing and fly and be full of reverb and lush layers of melody. I want it to be my beautiful, sumptuous, lovely piece of work.

And it is.  It’s very commercially successful. And it was commercially successful without compromising herself.

“Big Exit” and “Good Fortune” are wonderful rockers, catchy without being predictable.  “A Place Called Home” continues in this vein, with a somewhat slower, moodier piece.  It also exhibits some of her higher register (in the bridge), but for the most part she sings in the deep voice she’s been known for (Uh Huh Her came next, and then she switched over to the higher pitch on White Chalk).

“One Line” even made it on the Gilmore Girls (paragons of good musical taste).

“Beautiful Feeling” is a slow brooding number.  Typically, I find that I don’t like these songs from PJ, but this one is fantastic.  It’s followed by the noisy “The Whores Hustle and the Hustlers Whore” which is very dark lyrically.

Midway through the disc, we get a surprise Thom York from Radiohead sings the lead vocals on “This Mess We’re In” (PJ does backing vocals) and it shows that Yorke sounds great doing anything.  It’s a great song.  “You Said Something” is the first real upbeat moment on the disc, with some nice acoustic guitars.  And it’s followed by the absolutely rocker, “Kamikaze” which harkens to some of the noisier aspects from her earlier records (especially her screaming vocals).

The back half of many PJ albums seem to lose  momentum, but not this one: “This is Love” is another great single, catchy with some simple but cool sounding guitars.

“Horses in My Dreams” is one of long (5 minute), slow numbers.  It is a kind of languid piece, which I admit I don’t like all that much.  (I find that PJ’s slow pieces aren’t dynamic enough).  But the album closer “We Float” (at 6 minutes, I think the longest track she’s done) is the kind of moody piece that Harvey does right.  There’s some simple drums and piano that comprise the verses, but when she gets to the chorus, the song perks up with her gorgeous singing “We Float.”

Confusingly, the whole album seems like it is more from the “City” than the “Sea” (“We Float” being the exception), but that’s okay.  It’s a wonderful album and the start of another great decade for PJ.

[READ: late March 2011] discussing The Turing Test

Occasionally things converge in my reading life. And sometimes things converge rapidly.  I had just read an article by Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker that discussed machines becoming (or surpassing) humans.  The timing of this coincides somewhat with the appearance of Watson on Jeopardy! so it’s not entirely surprising to see it.  Watson proved to be very good on Jeopardy!, but that seems mostly because it can buzz in more quickly.  The real test for a computer’s “humanity” is what has been termed “The Turing Test.”

Gopnik’s summary of the Turing Test:

If a program could consistently counterfeit human language in an ongoing exchange, then, many theorists have argued, the threshold of language would have been crossed, and there would be no need for more games to conquer. This is the famous “Turing test,” named for Alan Turing.

The next night I read a story by Ryan Boudinot (in The Littlest Hitler).  The story is not current at all, and yet he also mentions the Turing test.

The third article is another book review.  The subtitle is “What will happen when computers become smarter than people?”  Again, given everything that’s happening in the world technology-wise, it’s not a total surprise, and yet the items are all quite different and it was interesting to read them all so close together. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PJ HARVEY-Uh Huh Her (2004).

After the sort of mellow, almost commercial release of Stories from the Sea, PJ Harvey throws the fans a left turn once again with Uh Huh Her.  It’s a heavy, raw album although not raw like Dry was.  It seems  simpler, somehow.  And I think it’s with this disc that you realize that every PJ Harvey record is going to be different.  It was apparent that she had a trajectory on those first few discs, but this one changes everything, and she proves that you’ll never know what’s going to come from her.

“The Life and Death of Mr Badmouth” has a very simple blues riff with kind of chanting (and occasional creepy backing vocals) by PJ.  While “Shame” adds more texture (melodica?) and some more washes of sound.  “Who the Fuck?” is a wonderfully vulgar and raw track with brutal guitars and overly loud vocals.  “Pocket Knife” is a buzzy but quiet track which feels like a demo (the guitar even seems out of tune), while “The Letter” has a great fuzzy guitar sound and a cool melody.

“The Slow Drug” is one of several slower pieces.  As with many of her quieter stuff this does nothing for me, although it’s a nice change on the disc.  “No Child of Mine” is a brief acoustic number.  It feels more like an excerpt or a transitional song than any actual song (being only a minute long).  It leads to the rocking “Cat on a Wall.”  “You Came Through”  mixes things up very nicely with a heavy percussion.  The effects in the song are really captivating.

“It’s You” is a slow piano-based song, while “The End” is a brief instrumental (more melodica).  And “The Desperate Kingdom of Love” is a dark ballad.  The oddest track is “Seagulls” which is a minute of actual seagulls squawking…an unusual addition for any disc.  The album ends with “The Darker Days of Me & Him.” It’s a quiet acoustic song which shows just how many different style she’s willing to experiment with even on one disc.  Even though to me this is a raw rocking disc, there are still a number of acoustic tracks as well.

This album feels like some kind of psychic purge.

[READ: March 31, 2011] The Littlest Hitler

I picked up this collection of stories because I enjoyed Boudinot’s story in the BlackBook collection very much.  I didn’t realize that that story was in fact part one of a two-part story (although part two bore no relation to part one, as you’ll see).  The story in BlackBook was funny and dark, but it didn’t prepare me for just how dark these stories would get.  And for the most part, it seemed like the darkness came at the very end; a surprise, a shock.   I admit i grew a little weary of the device by the end of the collection, although not all of the stories employed it, so there was some diversity. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MOGWAI-Kicking a Dead Pig + Mogwai Fear Satan Remixes (1998).

This release came out soon after Young Team, when it seemed like Mogwai was just flooding the market.  It’s a remix album of a number of tracks from Young Team. And, when it was re-released it contained several mixes of the track “Fear Satan” as a bonus disc.

In general, I’m not a fan of remixes.  There, I’ve said it. Back in the flush 90s, when I used to buy a lot of import singles, I enjoyed the B-sides, but was always disappointed when there was a remix rack.  Some are fine.  Indeed, some are pretty good.  But for the most part you get a very long song that is mostly drum machine and sounds and noises.  And I know that they are designed for dancing, but I’m not a dancer, so despite how much techno I own, I’m very rarely thrilled to ge a remix.

Which is  as good a way as any to say that this is a pretty inessential disc, even for Mogwai fans. Even though Mogwai themselves throw a couple of remixes on there.  And for the most part, what we get are washes of sound.  Since Mogwai don’t really do lyrics, it’s not always very obvious what song the remixers are remixing.

  • Hood: “Like Herod” has some interesting staccato, which Mogawi typically doesn’t have.
  • Max Tundra: “Helicon 2” is primarily ride cymbal although a guitar motif does come in (with some pretty harmonics) eventually.
  • Klute: “Summer” (Weird Winter Remix). There’s nothing distinctive about this.
  • Arab Strap: “Gwai on 45.”  I actually expected a lot from this mix because Arab Strap are a weirdly wonderful band and the guys have worked with Mogwai.  But then, they’re not an exciting band–they’re very good, just understated.  And as a result, this remix is okay but nothing too exciting.
  • Third Eye Foundation: “A Cheery Wave from Stranded Youngsters” (Tet Offensive Remix) is also okay.
  • Alec Empire: “Like Herod” (Face the Future Remix).  Alec Empire usually turns all of his remixes into super fast like 500 bpm noise explosions (just like Atari Teenage Riot). He doesn’t do that here, and the song just kind of melds in with the rest.
  • DJ Q: “R U Still In 2 It” has a vocal, but it is mostly one word repeated over and over.
  • Kid Loco: “Tracy.”  I liked this track more than many others.
  • Mogwai: “Fear Satan.”  It’s weird to me that you would remix one of your own songs, although I guess it’s fun.  I still like the original better.  And I’m fairly certain this one is different from the one on the next disc.

The four “Fear Satan” remixes are by:

  • Mogwai: delicate, the washes of sound are quiet and warm, and it really features the flute quite a lot. Although by the end, the feedback does come in.
  • μ-Ziq: remix is much more staccato. The washes have been removed.  There’s very little connection to the original.
  • Surgeon: remix begins electronically and builds as a slow wave.  It’s pretty much one note getting louder and louder until about a minute left when it changes tone.  It’s hard to imagine even calling this a remix.
  • My Bloody Valentine: at 16 minutes,  the MBV remix stands out for length. After about five minutes of interesting feedback squalls it shifts to a high-pitched noise, almost like a drill. After a few minutes of this it shifts into a very pretty electronic song.  By the end it’s a pounding heavy drum fill rocker.  Any resemblance to “Fear Satan” seems purely coincidental, but it’s a wild ride.

[READ: March 11, 2011] The Revolution Will Be Accessorized

I only heard about this anthology when I read the Sam Lipsyte piece from it.  I didn’t really like his piece, but the rest of the anthology sounded intriguing.  It was put out by BlackBook magazine, which I have a sort of vague awareness of, but couldn’t really say anything about (it’s some kind of counter-cultural fashion magazine or something).  But it seems like the counter-cultural aspect really lends sway here.

This anthology is a collection of short stories, essays and interviews.  There’s also an introduction by Jay McInerney

JAY McINERNEY-Introduction
He talks about BlackBook and the essays contained here. (more…)

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