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Archive for the ‘Simon Prosser’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: LES MOMIES DE PALERME-Brûlez de Coeur [CST070] (2011).

This is the second disc from Constellation’s MUSIQUE FRAGILE 01.  Les Momies de Palerme, comprised of Marie Davidson and Xarah Dion, create ethereal music that would not be out of place on NPR’s Echoes (wonder if John Diliberto knows about the album).

There is a female vocalist who has qualities of Cocteau Twins’ Elizabeth Fraser (big surprise there) as well as early Lush.  But while the music is often swirling and intriguing, it is also sometimes odd.  There are moments in “Solis” which remind me of Pink Floyd’s “Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict.” (That’s the second time I’ve mentioned this song in just over a month).

“Incarnation” has a vaguely middle eastern feel and works more in a Dead Can Dance kind of vein and “Le Cerf Invisible” has some really cool sound effects that spring up throughout the song.

The title track has a spoken word section that reminds me of the spoken word part in Sinéad O’Connor’s “Never Get Old” from The Lion and the Cobra (probably because it’s spoken by a woman and is in a foreign language, although on Sinéad’s album it’s Gaelic (spoken by Enya(!) and on this one it’s French).  I rather like it.

Most of the songs are longer than five-minutes, but there are two short ones: “Médée” is just under three and “Outre-Temps” is just under two, but they retain the same style of music, although “Médée” introduces acoustic guitars.

“Je T’aime” ends the disc with a bit more acoustic instrumentation.  The album kind of becomes more grounded as it goes along.  But it’s always ethereal.  It’s a neat experience.

Their website has a great front page, too.

[READ: January 23, 2012] Five Dials Number 22

Most Five Dials issues are chockablock with different ideas: contemporary issues, flashbacks to the past, fiction, poetry, ethics, music.  A wonderful melding of interesting ideas.  But Number 22 is entirely different.  Simon Prosser and Tracy Chevalier co-edited this issue and as they say in the editor’s note, they asked a group of contributors “to write grown-up fables about nineteen trees native to the UK.”

This issue is also promoting trees by highlighting the work at http://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk, an organization with three aims:

1 Work with others to plant more native trees…

2 Protect native woods, trees and their wildlife for the future…

3 Inspire everyone to enjoy and value woods and trees…

Simple but noble goals.  You can even buy a copy of this book in print from them at their store.

Even though I love nature and like being in the woods, I don’t know a lot about different kinds of trees.  I’m always stumped when it comes to tree identification.  So this issue was kind of enlightening for me.  Each fable has a picture of a leaf (presumably from that tree) which were painted by Leanne Shapton.  The fables also create backstory for what tree-lovers know about their favorite trees, and so this was also helpful just to learn what people know about trees.

But at the same time, it makes me uniquely unequipped to really talk about these fables.  So I’m just going to list the authors and their trees and say a word or two about their style. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TORI AMOS-Live from the Artist’s Den (2010).

I think my relationship with Tori Amos has come to an end.  I haven’t enjoyed her more recent albums all that much lately, but I was excited to see that this live and intimate set was on PBS.  After all, it was just her with a piano and what turned out to be a really cheesy organ.

I was pretty thrilled by the setlist, which goes all the way back to her debut album (with “Girl” and “China”).  I was even more excited to hear “Bells for Her” one of my favorite songs by her and even “Concertina” one of her more mellow tracks that worked well for this show which was primarily mellow songs.

There were a lot of newer songs which I don’t know that well, and a few newer songs which I know okay.   I don’t love her newer stuff, but I was even disappointed with the presentation of her older songs.  She has definitely taken on a new technique where she reeeeeaaaaaalllllllllyyyyy streeeeeeeeeeeetches the songs out. And, as I’ve complained on other recent posts, she mis-pronounces or mis-enunciates words that she used to say perfectly fine.  I find it maddening.

It took me two days to watch this 50 minute show because I kept falling asleep.  Gadzooks.

Now I totally respect an artist’s desire to change her songs.  Indeed, there are some live versions of her songs that I have enjoyed more than the originals.  But there’s something about the way these are drawn out that it feels like the life has been sucked from them.  The melody of “Ruby Through the Looking Glass” loses its impact when it is slowed down so much.

I’m also really disappointed with the synth that she chose.  Synthesizers can make any sound in the world, so why did they program this keyboard to play utterly anemic strings?  The conclusion of “Girl” which is so dramatic on record actually sounds worse with the thin washes than it would if it were played on just piano.

And as for the way she sings words now…  “Bells for Her” to give just one example, has her mangling the word “you” so that when she sings “not even you” we get something like “not even yaow” which I don’t understand.  I mean, listen to the awesome live version on To Venus and Back–she didn’t used to do that.  So wha happa?

I used to think that I liked her solo better.  I always enjoyed the little quiet time section of the concerts when she would play a song or two by herself.  But I feel like now, when she’s by herself, she loses any sense of editing.  The band seemed to keep her on pace.  And it’s a shame to see her drift so much.

Because Tori was an important part of my music youth, I’ll give her one more chance–she has a new album due out reasonably soon, but I’m not holding out much hope for it.   I think we may just be on very different planes of existence anymore.

[READ: July 19, 2011] Five Dials Number 17

The brevity of the Christmas issue is followed up by the somewhat longer Five Dials Number 17.  (This issue also has 7 pages of photos at the end of the issue).  I admit I didn’t know where Jaipur was (it’s sort of north west-ish in India, not terribly far from New Delhi).

This is also the first issue of 2011 (I’m nearly caught up!).  So the issue opens with New Year’s Resolutions.  The letter is also from editors, plural, for a change.

CRAIG TAYLOR & SIMON PROSSER-Letter from the Editors
The letter opens with some enjoyably self-deprecating comments about resolutions (and how they made theirs now, instead of at the end of the year).  But what I enjoyed most was the collective list of resolutions that the entire staff made.  They are listed as one person, which makes for wonderfully contradictory resolutions.  I was particularly pleased by: “stop making that face when my brother makes a suggestion.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: GIRL TALK-All Day (2010).

Girl Talk is the product of Gregg Gillis.  Gillis doesn’t play any instruments.  All he does is mash-up different songs into a killer DJ mix.  There is absolutely nothing legal about what he does (in terms of copyright), and for that reason alone, I love it.  But beyond that,  he does a great job of mashing two (and more) songs together.

Mostly this is a fun way to play “spot the song” [Hey: “In Your Arms,” Hey “War Pigs”].  And when you give up you can check out the samples list (which has 37 entries under the name D alone). [Hey, Spacehog’s “In the Meantime”]

I knew a lot of the songs that he sampled, but he also put in a lot of rap which I didn’t know.  The rap works well over the original music (what sampling would be like for real if it was legal).  [Hey, Portishead!]

Mostly you get a minute or maybe a little more of each song, [Radiohead’s “Creep”] sometimes the clips are sped up or slowed down to merge perfectly with the other.  And it’s a whole lot of fun.  [The Toadies!] As someone described it, it’s like listening to a whole bunch of radio stations at once [“Cecelia”].  And, if you don’t like the song that’s on [two seconds of the Grateful Dead?], just wait a couple seconds. [INXS].

Gillis doesn’t (really) sell his music.  Indeed, you can download all of All Day for free fromIllegal Art.  [Hey, the middle of Edgar Winter’s “Frankenstein”].

I’m not sure if it’s art, per se, but it’s clearly a lot of work, and it takes a lot of skill to make it so seamless [White Zombie!].  It probably works very well at a party too.

[READ: June 20, 2011] Five Dials Number 13

Five Dials 13 is more or less the music issue.  It is specifically dedicated to festivals and their overindulgence of everything.  And so it is long (63 pages), it is full of rather diverse points of view, it even has clouds!  Thankfully it’s not full of overflowing portapotties.  It also has lots of artwork from Raymond Pettibon, which is pretty fantastic in and of itself.

CRAIG TAYLOR-Letter from the Editor: On Festivals and George Thoroughgood
The letter opens with some comments on Festivals–two paragraphs of complainants about festivals with a final admission that the interlocuter is going to Glastonbury.  The end of the letter is devoted to a story from George Thoroughgood.  Usually I agree with the Five Dials‘ tastes without question, but I have a serious complaint about their love of Thoroughgood, about whom it would be charitable to say that he has written one song seventy-five times.  And I have absolute incredulity at this quote from George:

The promoters had gone to another festival where we played on Thursday before Roskilde, and they were so knocked out by the power of the performance they called me the next day and asked if we would mind if they changed our show time to close the festival.

Are you seriously telling me that they would change the headlining act a weekend before the festival?  How pissed would you be if your headliner was bumped for 90 minutes of ‘Bad to the Bone’?  Good grief. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: GUSTER-Easy Wonderful (2010).

This Guster album is confusing.  It’s rather short (compared to their other discs).  Combined with the (kind of flimsy) cardboard packaging, it feels almost like an EP.  It also seems to be kind of religious (although I don’t think it is)–like a themed EP.  And yet it isn’t off-putting or anything (a few mentions of Jesus is all, although that’s a lot more than usual).

But, like most of Guster’s releases, it’s super catchy kind of alternative jangly pop.  After one or two listens the songs are instantly recognizable.  There isn’t a bad song in the bunch.  However, they’re also mildly underwhelming compared to their previous releases.  The songs feel a bit more subtle, but really it seems like they might be just a little too smooth.  The dynamics aren’t quite as exciting as they have been.

Having said all that, the disc is still pretty great and I find myself humming a lot of these songs all day long.

[READ: June 18, 2011] Five Dials Number 12

Five Dials Number 12 has a theme explicitly stated on the cover.  The premise of the theme is that the Conservative Party of Britain had been claiming (in their TV ads and billboards) that Britain was broken.  This idea was relentlessly pushed across Britain.  And Five Dials wondered if people thought that that was true in general.  So they asked 42 citizens (no idea what kind of random sample it may have been, realistically) and they recorded the results.

The rest of the issue has some of the standard Five Dials material we’ve come to expect: essays and fiction, advice and lists.  The theme gives an interesting tone to the proceedings.

CRAIG TAYLOR-A Letter from the Editor: On Broken Britain and Nick Dewar
Taylor addresses much of what is said above.  David Cameron (I still can’t get used to him being Prime Minister, it’s still Gordon Brown in my head–I guess Cameron hasn’t done much yet) is the man who keeps trying to “mend our broken society.”  Even though (and statistics are similar in the U.S.):

They found that violent crime had almost halved since 1995, while crime generally fell by an extraordinary 45%. The figures for teenage pregnancies – a favourite of those talking about social decay – remain constant since Labour came to power in 1997; so too do those for teenage abortions.

The rest of the letter is devoted to the passing of Nick Dewar.  Dewar drew the illustrations for Five Dials Number One.  I really liked Dewar’s style, and his absurdist sensibilities.  Taylor says that Dewar’s color work was even better.  And I think he’s right. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TEENAGE FANCLUB-Shadows (2010).

Back in the 90s, Teenage Fanclub released a few noisy, feedbacky records that were quintessential 90s alt rock.

Since then they have mellowed considerably, and this album is one of their most mellow to date. Usually for me this kind of mellowing is a sign that I’m done with a band; however, Teenage Fanclub’s songwriting gets better with every disc.  And these folky tracks are all fantastic.

What’s neat about the arrangement of the album is that each of the three members of the band writes four songs.  They are collated so that you cycle through each singer before repeating. You get maximum diversity–and it’s easy to tell which songwriter is your favorite.

The opening two songs, “Sometimes I Don’t Need to Believe in Anything” and “Baby Lee” are two wonderful upbeat pop confections.  They sound very different and yet both are infused with wonderful pop chops.

It seems that Blake is my favorite songwriter on this disc. He did “Baby Lee”, “Dark Clouds” (a pretty piano based number) and by far the prettiest song on the disc “When I Still Have Thee.”  It’s an amazingly catchy folk song that sounds timeless (and even has the great couplet: “The Rolling Stones wrote a song for me/It’s a minor song in a major key.”

That’s not to dismiss the other songwriters at all.  In fact, hearing their different takes on pop music is really pretty amazing.  It’s a shame that it takes them so long to put albums out (about 5 years these days).

[READ: June 10, 2011] Five Dials Number 9

Five Dials Number 8, The Paris Issue, was pretty big (45 pages), but it had a lot of pictures.  Five Dials Number 9 is also pretty big (41 pages) and it’s (almost) all text.  For this is the Fiction Issue, and there are a lot of short stories in here.

CRAIG TAYLOR-A Letter from the Editor: On ‘Summer Reading’ and Fiction Issues.
Since most of what I talk about in the introduction to these posts is covered in Taylor’s Letter from the Editor, I figured I’d switch formats and start talking about his letter right away.  In this letter, Taylor talks about the serious pitfalls of  ‘Summer Reading’: We pledge to read mammoth books over the summer, but really we never finish War and Peace over the summer, do we? (except those of us who finished Infinite Summer, am I right?).  And so, this Fiction Issue was released in December (finally, a date is given to a Five Dials!).  Taylor briefly talks about all of the authors who contributed (including a pat on the back to Five Dials for securing the rights to a Philip Roth contribution in its first year of publication).  He also talks about the essay from David Shields that is decidedly anti-fiction.   And the final note is that Taylor’s own father has a piece in this issue (nepotism is alive and well!) (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MEAT PUPPETS-KEXP in studio November 10, 2009 (2009).

According to my stats, this is my 1000th post.  Wow!

I had liked the Meat Puppets somewhat when I was into SST back in the 80s, then I really got into them in the late 90s (when Nirvana introduced us to them).  I thought Too High to Die was a great album.  But they kind of fell from those heights (and Cris Kirkwood fell into serious trouble–drugs and jail) by the end of the decade.  So Curt Kirkwood continued without Cris and I kind of didn’t care anymore.

This session from 2009 sees the return of Cris (who came back for their 2007 album) with songs taken from their 2009 album, Sewn Together.  I don’t know what the album sounds like but this session is heavy on the country feel.  The new songs seem quite mellow, and a bit less bizarre than some of their earlier songs.

They sound good though.  Even with the drummer playing garbage cans and recycling bins.  As a sort of encore, they play “Plateau” (a Nirvana cover, ha ha).  About midway through, Curt messes up the lyrics and gives up singing.  But they play the extended coda regardless.

Curt doesn’t come across as the nicest guy in the world, but he’s been through enough to not give a toss what anyone thinks.  I’m glad the Puppets are back together and recording, but I don’t think I’ll be delving too deeply into their new stuff.

[READ: April 19, 2011] Five Dials Number 3

Five Dials Number 3 ups the page quantity a bit (26 in total) and also includes several art print reproductions  from Margaux Williamson, an artist who is mentioned in one of the articles.   This issue really solidifies the quality of this magazine.  It also introduces the possibility of correspondence with the readers.

CRAIG TAYLOR-On Alibis and Public Views
As mentioned, this letter introduces the idea that people are writing to the magazine.  Sadly there is no letters column (even if Paul F. Tompkins hates letters to the editor, for this magazine, I thought they’d be interesting).

CHERYL WAGNER-Current-ish Event: “The Ballad of Black Van.”
This is a true account of Wagner’s life in post-Katrina New Orleans, where a man in a black van is squatting in abandoned properties and selling everything imaginable.  And there’s no cops to help.  It’s a sad look at the state of New Orleans.

DAVID RAKOFF-A Single Film: Annie Hall
I haven’t read much David Rakoff, but he persist in amusing me whenever I do (hint to self: read more by David Rakoff).  This is an outstanding piece about the beloved film Annie Hall.  It’ s outstanding and goes in an unexpected direction too. (more…)

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