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Archive for the ‘Clowns’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Fall Nationals, Night 4 of 10, The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (November 14, 2004).

The Rheostatics, live at the Legendary Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto, November 14, 2004. This was the 4th night of their 10 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe.  It was an all ages show and ran about 90 minutes.

There are two recordings available for this show.  The Sloggett version is from the soundboard, but the Clarkson recording sounds a bit bigger with more bass and stage noise.   Although you can’t hear the spoken word part of “Mutilated World” at all.  You can hear Dave’s daughter Cecelia chatting you can hear her at one point say “Hi, Tim!”

The start off saying they’ll do a coupe of songs from The Story of Harmelodia to start us out, get us in the mood.

They open with “Home Again” which sounds appropriately cute–Martin has fun with it.  Then for “It’s Easy to Be with You”, they “invite Don Kerr up on stage for this next number on the tenor guitar.  A man of many talents, above all growing a handsome mustache (MPW: or perhaps partially shaving a fanatic beard).  Don says: “Somebody called me papa smurf the other day because I had a cap on.” Dave: “I think Papa Smurf was a little rounder around the middle.”  The song sound nice with that extra guitar.

You can hear on the Clarkson recording “When is my song?”  Dave: “Gonna be maybe in about 5 songs?  Maybe in about 4 songs?  Wanna do it now?  well.  alright.  Does your brother wanna sing too?”  Cecilia (who is like 4 years old, maybe) does an amazing job with Dave Edmund’s “Almost Saturday Night.”  She has a great sense of melody and really gets the feel for the song.  At the end Mike says, “It’s a perfect song to sing on a Sunday.  That’s optimism.”  As she walks off you hear Dave say, “Good job, Cees.”  And she replies, “Good job, dad.”

Then it’s on to a solid version of “Claire” which they send out “to Paul Quarrington, Gillar nominated, should have won.”  Tim says, “co author of this song.”  Mike: “At least on the SOCAN form.” Dave: “A man who launched 1,000 careers.”

“Aliens (Christmas 1988)” opens with a kind of rocking rhythm.  Martin starts singing a weird version of Split Enz ‘ “I Got You” before doing the “whoo hoo hoo” and launching into an incredibly fast paced version.  When it slows down in the middle, Martin says, let’s bring it to normal speed.

For “Try To Praise This Mutilated World,” they also shout out to Chris Stringer on keyboard “bringing down the mean average age of the band.”  I normally can’t hear the spoken parts, but you can hear someone speaking polish I believe.  Each version of this song sounds better and better.

To continue this mellow middle section, Jen Foster is back on accordion for “Who Is This Man, And Why Is He Laughing?” and then comes “Making Progress.”  However, they start in wrong key.  As they get situated, Martin asks Dave why no one is showing minor league and jr league hockey.  Dave says that the CBC is complicit with the NHL in holding back younger players.  Once they get the song going, it sound perfect.

As an introduction to “Take Me In Your Hand,” Martin plays a quick guitar lick from one of his solo songs (“Waterstriders,” I think) and then segues into a very delicate version of the song.

Dave asks if any of the horn players from the Hebrew School Dropouts are still around (they opened the show).  Up come Adam and “Fedora guy” to play horns (including solos) for “Legal Age Life At Variety Store.”  Dropping out of Hebrew school is the best thing you guys ever did.

“Northern Wish” is a very pretty, very mellow version.  It’s followed by a really lovely slow version of “Stolen Car.”

After the encore break, Tim comes out to play a special request “all the way from California.”  He starts “Row” and asks if it’s the right song (it is).  He forgets a few lines but is otherwise quite pretty.  When it’s over, the requester shouts, “Thank you!”  Someone else shouts “Saskatchewan” but Tim says the Hebrew School Dropouts are going to school in Etobicoke so we’ll do a good Etobicoke song for them.  That song is “Self Serve Gas Station.” Martin changes a line to “What went wrong with little Jimmy, is he dumb?”

It segues into a wild, upbeat “Song Of The Garden.”  It’s rollicking and crazy and sort of segues into a slapdash cover of XTC’s “Radios In Motion.”

And that’s it.  It’s short show for the band, but probably perfect for an All ages crowd.  Speaking of All-ages, it’s pretty kid friendly, but not entirely (with some of Martin’s songs).  It would have been really fun to see though.

[READ: July 7, 2017] Animal Crackers

The origins of this story are confusing to me.  It was originally written in 2011 (and published by a different publisher (with a different cover, of course).  But there’s not much you can find out about it.  There’s also a prequel (also originally released in 2011) which came out by First Second around the same time, but that’s for another post.

This book bears the sticker that says “Now a Major Motion [Animated] Picture (due out in Fall 2017).”  Given how short this book is, I wonder if the movie is based on both books or what.  Guess we’ll see.  Since I first wrote that, I have seen that the film has been released, but not in the States.  And, it has major stars associated with it.  I still can;t imagine how they stretched this premise out to 94 minutes.

This story is cute and fun with some good humor.  The problem is that the entire plot is given away in the blurb on the inside cover (so don’t read that). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Reverb, Toronto, ON (August 29, 1997).

This is the final show Rheostatics show from the 1990s that I haven’t mentioned thus far.

I’m not sure what the band had been doing before this show (aside from making he Nightlines show), but they’ve apparently not played live for a while.  This return to performance seems to have brought out the wildness in them.  This show has all kinds of jamming moments with eight songs lasting over 7 minutes.  There’s also some slower moments or songs played differently.  It’s a cool, unique show–very different from their other shows.

There’s even an “opening jam” with a guitar riff explored around some bass notes.  Then a new guitar comes in with some rums.  The whole jam is about 3 minutes but it doesn’t really turn into anything, it’s just a like a warm up jam–I even wondered if it was just the guys messing around until all four of them were on stage.

They play the opening riff to “Fat” but he only plays a clip of it and then stops (allowing Tim to do some bass fills).  During the “bye bye” section they stop the music a few times unexpectedly as well.  It’s an interesting jamming opportunity and runs a pretty long time.

After the song Dave says, “we haven’t played togetehr in a long time well, we haven’t played live in front of people.  We played together at the CBC.”  (the Nightlines show mentioned later).  “So now we got one under our belt.  We forgot our songs had so many parts.”

Dave continues, “There’s a lot of people from Michigan here tonight for some strange reason.  They think the Stanley Cups is here.  But it’s not.  We’ll send this next song out to them.”  It’s “Aliens” At the end, Martin takes off on a wild solo as the band really rocks out.  There’s also an extended jam with someone singing a “dit dit dit” part while Martin plays along on guitar.

“All the Same Eyes” is pretty straightforward except that there’s some real wailing from Martin throughout.

Someone shouts “Are you looking for some fun?” and Martin says “We’ve got a new version of that song we’re gonna play.”  Then Tim says, “Just write your requests on a plate.  Dave: “There’s a private party upstairs and there’s lots of plates outside the door.”  Martin: “There’s a private party for um the three little boys with sandy blonde hair… hamsum?  handsome?”

Then they play the first known occurrence of “Junction Foil Ball.”  Martin introduces it: “we’ll do a kind of a new song”  Don: “its new and we’re kind of going to do it.”  I’m impressed with the interesting sound effects that Martin gets while playing this song.  During the “acoustic tile” section he even distorts his voice like it has slowed down–is that effect of Martin’s singing.

“Four Little Songs” sounds totally different.  It’s got a kind of swinging opening.  The first part is really heavy.   Dave’s part is interesting because while still in the trippy intro section, he begins singing the lyrics to Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold.”  When he finally gets to the song, people sing along to his first lines!  Martin has crazy fun with the riff at the end–lots of squeaking solo noises.

Dave asks: “How are those chamois working out, martin?” “They’re remarkably absorbent for large quantities of liquid.”  When I saw them Martin was very sweaty.  I wonder if he always was.  There’s a solid, slow version of “Bad Time to Be Poor,” which Dave says was written awhile ago…but it’s still a bad time to be poor.

Before “Sweet Rich” Martin says, so I’m going to do this solo, okay Tim.  Just the first bit.”  It’s a great version.

“Joey II” has a long rollicking jam in the intro with Martin chanting “I’m about to fuck up, I’m going to fuck up.”   During the middle of the song he asks if any musicians in the audience have played at the Royal Albert Hall in Winnipeg–well that’s what this song is about.

They play an early version of “Easy to Be with You” which goes to “California” instead of “Harmelodia.”

Dave introduces “Stolen Car” by saying “We’d like to do another new one for you.  We played this at our last concert but we’re going to play it a little differently.  This is Tim Mech one of North America’s greatest unsigned artists.   Seriously, he won a contest in Musicians magazine and was named one of the ten best unsigned artists.   We recorded this for the last Nightlines program.  We recorded about 32 minutes of music.  Old stuff, new stuff and a version of this song.  Dave’s last show is tomorrow night.  Thats 104.1 FM CICZ-FM in the local area!”

As the song starts he says (I assume referring to Mech’s guitar) “this is a Hawaiian guitar that’s autographed by Ben Harper.”  ( I had no idea Ben Harper was noteworthy back in 1997).  There’s a weird electronic drumbeat through the song, and the music is primarily guitars–gentle and smooth.

Martin shouts, “Its’ been great playing in our home town–Toronto!”  They play a long version of “My First Rock Show” with a lengthy introductory instrumental section.  Near the final verse, he whispers the “many years later” section and someone shouts “bird in a cage” at the right time.  As the song ends they play the chorus of Trooper’s “We’re Here For A Good Time (Not A Long Time).”

“California Dreamline” is quite extended as well.  After the first verse there’s a dance jam before the second verse begins.  The middle has a kind of vocal jam with a light bass and guitar motif and everyone singing different parts in a fugue state.  It’s a weirdly unique version.  At the end Martin says, “That was ‘California Dreamline,’ we’re going to do ‘Record Horse Count’ next.  They do neither and in fact play a really slow almost country-feeling version of “Claire.”  It’s so different sounding that they kind of mess it up here and there.

Things get quiet and then people start clapping along and you can barely hear them playing an acoustic un-mic’d version of “Bread Meat Peas and Rice.”  Dave says the name of the song “for those of you who could hear it.  You kind of understand why you use microphones.”  Tim starts talking about the band Farm Fresh. “They had a similar kind of thing with their Peanuts and Corn record [what?] and apparently they’re supposed to be releasing a new record, is that right?  They’ve made two cassettes and they are both for sale and are both really good.”  Dave: “Whats with that T-shirt, Tim?”  “Free with every cassette sold.”

Someone shouts again, “We’re looking for some fun.”  Dave: “Are you?”  And they launch into “Fishtailin'” which opens with that lyric.

After the song Dave asks “What is the time, late or early or what?  What time do bars say open til  4?  5?  [Shouts of four and Five] Tim: According to the new mega city law they close at 1 [boooos], so we’ve got half a song left.

They surprise ever one with “Bees,” a short quiet song with Martin making bee-like sounds on his guitar.  It leads to a long, quiet intro for “Michael Jackson” with Martin still doing some cool guitar sounds.  The whole beginning is slow and a little odd, with Dave singing “but an auto-bon would be better.”  And later, “Elvis is king because he’s dead.”  In the middle of the song Dave starts “rapping” and he says “I’d like to call Pip Skid (I assume) to the stage.  Pip Skid from Manitoba does a rap that’s kind of hard to hear.  Then there’s some soaring guitars from Martin.  The whole song is 11 minutes long and ends in a vocal jam that grows ever quieter.  Martin sings “It feels good to be alive” (hitting great falsettos) while the others are singing snippets and oh yeas.

They play an 11 minute “Dope Fiends” which has a bass and drum solo in the middle as well as just a drum solo later.  After 8 and a half minutes the band keeps going with some simple rocking.  At the end Martin says, “Thanks guys for giving me a second chance.” [?].

They leave the stage for the encore with a drum machine blipping away.  They come back with the drum machine still playing and someone plays a slow meandering guitar line. Another instrumental jam for 3 or so minutes before Dave says, “We’ll play one more.”  He also says that they’ll have their live album out by Christmas (stocking stuffers!).  And they end the show with a great non-nonsense version of “A Midwinter Night’s Dream.”

This is a wonderfully atypical show for the band.  A real treat for fans and an interesting entry point for fans of jamming shows.

The next Rheostatics show that I’ll mention will be in 2001!

[READ: March 16, 2017]  “The Pickle Index”

This story is written in a fascinating way.  There are newspaper articles from The Daily Scrutinizer (written by Mark Hamper) and with them, there is the Pickle Index, a series of recipes.  In fact, it’s a recipe-exchange network “for citizens by citizens.”   Daily participation is mandatory (though surely that’s unnecessary since the treats within are so tasty).

From the Scrutinizer we learn that the official strike team has captured Zloty Kornblatt,the instigator, conspirator and fomenter. He brought a troupe of “performers” into the village to mock, destabilize and cause anarchy.

The Pickle Index begins with Fisherman’s Dills (by Sarafina Loop)–brine-ing cucumbers in the ocean.  And then comes Hollow Gherkins by Flora Bialy.  Although midway through the recipe, it shifts directions and talks about Zloty.  How he left them last night and the writer, Flora Bialy wonders why–was it their incompetence or was it her?  She says that once, years ago Zloty’s team was a real circus with clowns, a trapeze and roasted nuts, but now they were reduced to an extended residency in Burford. (more…)

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clowns SOUNDTRACK: LE FLY PAN AM: N’écoutez pas [CST031] (2004).

flypanam31N’écoutez pas (Do Not Listen) was the third and final full length album from Constellation’s Fly Pan Am (or in this case Le Fly Pan Am).  There are several short tracks on the disc as well as two 11 minutes songs

“Brûlez suivant, suivante!” (Burn Next, Next!) Opens the disc and hints that it’s going to be a standard rock album—4×4 drums and a dense buzzy electric guitar.  And even when the song proper starts, there’s chanted worded in French and some noisy guitar—its very far from the bass and funky glitchy stuff of previous albums.  The song has very conventional element—a drum break where one might clap along and what sounds like people singing lalalalalala, but all under a veneer of noise and decay that makes it anything but poppy.  There’s a deep voice speaking insistently in French and way in the background a person screaming.  So, really it’s rather unconventional, but within a relatively “normal” framework.  “Ex éleveurs de renards argentés” (Ex breeders silver foxes) is the noise of completely detuned guitars getting plucked and strummed for 30 seconds until a piano plays a chord and all else stops.  It seems like a song will begin but, no, more noises—industrial waves and cars honking takes over.  And then a cacophony of voices begins talking all over each other (including a couple in English).  It’s all over after about 2 minutes.

“Autant zig-zag” (As much zig-zag) is a totally apt name for this song.  This is the first 11 minute track.  After a minute or so introduction, the song comes in with a propulsive bass (not funky at all like the last album) and the song feels like it’s ready to rock.  And it does.  It keeps up this rhythm for a bit and then shifts to a new part with wordless vocals.  There’s even a call and response section with sung words and ooh ooohs as response.  The song shifts to a kind of pummeling section that continues for several minutes until the end.  It contains pretty much everything the band does.  “Buvez nos larmes de métal” (Drink our metal tears) is a noise collage with dramatic movie soundtrack type music played behind the static and distant voices and noises.

“Pas à pas step until” (Step by Step until) has a commanding one, two, three, pause, four, riff going on that is at once catchy and noisy.  The song proper comes in with whispered singing and a wild bass line.  Alexandre St-Onge contributes his wonderful chaos to this song which has some really catchy backing vocals in it

“…” opens side two with what sounds like a voice repeating Fly Pan Am over an over amidst the sound of someone else chewing.  It segues into “Très très ‘retro'” “Very Very ‘Retro’” is the other 11 minute song.  It has two guests, Dominique Petrin on vocals and Tim Heck on electronics.  The song opens with a high-pitched bass and some great counterpoint rhythms.   There’s more hidden vocals throughout the song  Around three minutes in, the bass gets funky.  This runs on for several minutes with some interesting sound effects thrown in until there’s a loud pop and silence.   And then another pop and organ music takes over.  At about 9 minute the song resumes the funky bass line. Again, the band has crammed a lot of stuff into this song.

“Vos rêves revers” (Your dreams setback) has a nice bass sound with some ringing guitar notes.  There’s whispered vocals that sing a melody of sorts.  It’s a fairly conventional song—catchy and bouncy with vocals and everything (true they are whispered and hushed vocals but they do follow a melody line).  At about 4 minutes (of 6), the songs crashes unto itself with the drums and the guitars seeming to fall apart

“Ce sale désir éfilé qui sortant de ma bouche” (This dirty tapered desire coming out of my mouth) has a deep echoing drum kick which keeps a beat.  In the distant background a keening voice kind of follows the melody.  The disc ends with “Le faux pas aimer vous souhaite d’être follement ami” (The false not love you madly want to be friend).  It’s a one minute song with sliding guitars and rock drums which propel this to as close to punk as the band has gotten.  There’s chanting and excitement and fun and then the whole song unravels after about 40 seconds at the end with a sloppy piano denouement.

And that was it from this avant-garde band. The members went on to make lots of other music, Jonathan Parant went on to form Feu Thérèse. Felix Morel has played drums with all kind of interesting bands including Et Sans.  Roger Tellier-Craig has been in Et Sans and Set Fire to Flames among others.  And Jean-Sebastian Truchy has played in several bands including Avec le soleil sortant de sa bouche.

[READ: February 6, 2016] City of Clowns

In the afterword to this book, Alarcón explains how it as written.  He lived in Lima, Peru for a year, teaching.  But while he was there, he had writer’s block.  So he moved to a farmhouse in the middle of America–pure solitude.  And there he wrote the story “City of Clowns” (which I read back in 2013 in the New Yorker) in English.  Sheila Alvarado talked to him about turning the book into a graphic novel.  And so it was completed (after much labor, he says) in a slightly condensed Spanish edition to be released in Spain.  And then, eventually, it was translated into English again, from the Spanish graphic novel.

Since the story really doesn’t change from the short story version, I’m going to put my original comments here:

It opens with Oscarcito going to the hospital because his father died the night before.  He finds his mother mopping floors because his father’s bill was unpaid.  And in that very first paragraph, she introduces her son to Carmela—the woman whom his father left them for.  She was mopping the floor with Oscarcito’s  mother.  He is confused and enraged by this.

His half brothers are also there.  He had never met them before, preferring to stay away from his father’s other life.  But he saw them in front of him and clearly saw that they were related to him.  But the most galling thing was that although he was the oldest of all the children, they were clearly the chosen children—after all, his father stayed with them.

Then we learn about his father’s life.  He was born in Cerro de Pasco and moved to Lima when his young family was still young.  He worked hard in semi-legitimate businesses and then brought his family to the city.  Young Oscarcito, age 8, loved it.  But his mother hated missing her family in Cerro de Pasco.  And now they were living with his father who was practically a stranger. His father worked hard and succeeded, but he was rarely home.

Between flashbacks to his father’s story we see that Oscarcito is now a reporter for the local newspaper and he has been asked to write about the clowns that are prevalent around the city.  Oscarcito is on a bus when a clown approaches.  The clown is pelted by water balloons but still manages to climb aboard the bus and peddle his wares—gaining a few coins for his “act.”  Oscarcito is not interested in the subject and puts it off.

So he travels to his mother’s house to see how she is doing, but a neighbor there tells him she has been living with Carmela since his father got sick.  His mother was embarrassed by this and asked the neighbor not to say anything to him.

His mother had been a cleaning lady since they moved to Lima.  She worked for the Azcártes, a wealthy local family who treated her very well and treated Oscarcito practically like their own son.  Oscar was even sent to a nice school where he was welcomed until they realized where he was from.  Gangs would steal anything from anyone, and were called Piranhas.  And that became Oscar’s nickname at school.  And soon he was made fun of by just about everyone, but especially by one boy.

A flashback then shows that Oscarcito went to work with his father doing construction on a few occasions—they worked very hard on expansions of people’s houses—working hard and working well and making good improvements.  But all the while, they were waiting patiently until they could rob them of all of their fine things.

So when he found his father was working for the father of the boy who made fun of him, he wanted in, and he stole the boy’s suit.

Finally, after putting off his article for ages, Oscarcito meets and interviews a clown.  And that clown tells him how he started and invites him along.  And Oscarcito does.  He finds that he likes the anonymity of the job.

All of the threads come to a head as the story reaches its close—where Oscar will confront his mother and deal with his newfound joy at being a clown.

The ending was very powerful and I enjoyed this story immensely.

There are few details from the original story that have been changed (and I amended my comments accordingly).

There is also an extra scene added of him dating a girl named Carla who walked on stilts.  There’s an erotic moment which is really interesting and which brings a whole new level of fascination to Oscar’s clown life.

Obviously the biggest change is Alvarado’s illustrations.  She does an excellent job recreating these scenes much as I imagined them.  I really  enjoyed the way she worked within the mens’ professions–putting words on bricks as his father was laying them, hanging papers up to dry with text on them, and using excellent distinctions of black and white to show the different settings in Oscar’s life.

The biggest change I think is the depiction of Oscar in his clown suit.  It’s nothing like I imagined and is all the better for it.  Alarcón says that now this is “its true and definitive form” of the book, and I imagine that this is what I will think of when I think of the story.

For ease of searching, I include: Daniel Alarcon.

 

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leotardSOUNDTRACK: THEE SILVER MT. ZION MEMORIAL ORCHESTRA & TRA-LA-LA BAND-Horses in the Sky [CST033] (2005).

This album is described as 330px-Horses_in_the_Sky_album_cover “6 busted ‘waltzes’ for world wars 4 thru 6” … the “first song’s about war and drug addiction, fourth song’s about kanada, and the rest of it is all love songs.”

This album proves to be their folkiest and most organic sounding album.  The songs are mostly pretty mellow, including one that was recorded at a campfire.

“God Bless Our Dead Marines” opens the disc.  It’s 12 minutes long and begins “They put angels in the electric chair, the electric chair.”  The melody is pretty catchy and the accompanying minimal strings accentuate the song nicely.  About 90 seconds into the song, the drums come in and the song takes on a rumbling field.  The vocals are repeated a lot, and Efrim’s voice is placed nicely in the mix.  The middle of song takes on a kind of shanty quality with lots of clapping and a loud electric guitar.  Around 3:30 the song stops and a new melody comes in, primarily on bowed bass.  The sound of this section is spare but very cool.  The piano returns (this is one of the first songs in a while to rely so heavily on piano) and a new melody (including the title of the song) is sung (again, a very catchy folk-song kind of melody) with occasional guitar chords.   The lyrics are also pretty straightforward and poetic.  While in no way suggesting this song could have been popular, it is certainly approachable and fairly conventional (even at 11 minutes).  At 9 minutes the song is stripped of all music except piano.  And several rounds of voices begin singing “when the world is sick, can no one be well, but I dreamt we were all beautiful and strong.”  When the third set of voices (these are bass) come in, it really sounds great.

“Mountains Made of Steam” opens with guitar harmonics and a contrasting simple guitar melody.  The vocals come in about 90 seconds in.  The song is also surprisingly stripped down.  The voices and bass grow a little louder at around 3 minutes, but not in a building and building kind of way.  After a few rounds of “Ya di da di di’s,” the instrumental section swells.  It is loud and soaring but not big the way GYBE is.   The low resounding bowed bass in this song is really fantastic–it’s very big and round and really satisfying

“Horses in the Sky” opens with acoustic guitars and Efrim singing quietly.  It sounds like a very traditional folk song.  There’s a second voice singing harmony (just about everyone is listed as doing vocals).  The lyrics sum up the tone of the song, “Schools look like prisons and our prisons look like malls / Downtown just a sick parade where no one cares at all.”  This is one of the few songs from the band that doesn’t really change over the course of the whole song (some keyboards are added, but it is otherwise pretty much just guitar and voice).

“Teddy Roosevelt’s Guns” starts with echoed guitars and strings and the vocals: “Kanada oh Kanada I ain’t never been your son.”  Strings slowly fill out the melody as more voices start singing that above refrain and Efrim’s indictments mount.  This continues with some swirling strings until about 7 minutes when the drums start pounding out three note blast.  When the vocals come back in, they are the harshest on the album, both from the lead and backing vocals.

“Hang on to Each Other” was recorded “next to a campfire by the river” … “at Garfield’s fire pit.”  You can hear the fire crackling as the song begins.  There’s some simple “ba dum da da dum” vocals before a harmonium grows louder.  Aside from that instrument, it’s otherwise almost entirely a capella with various voices singing different parts, primarily “hang on to each other,” “any fucking thing you love” and “birds toss precious flowers from the murky skies above” in various rounds and harmonies.  It’s really quite a moving song.

“Ring Them Bells (Freedom Has Come and Gone)”  is 13 minutes long.  The song opens with slow strings.  A voice, which follows  a piano melody, sings the “freedom has come and gone” part.  The song feels fuller than the rest of the album with strings and bass filing the background.   The instrumental part is the biggest and most dramatic on the record with swelling strings and occasional guitars ringing out until 4 minutes in when everything drops out except for one violin and a bass and a new vocal melody.  But soon enough a buzzy electric guitar comes in to add more drama to this song.  And then it quiets down again, with staccato guitar and strings getting softer and softer until it fades out entirely for a few seconds.  And then a new guitar line begins.  It is replaced by single piano notes and wild (but quiet) feedback.  Efrim sings over as the feedback builds louder and louder until the screeching end.

This is definitely one of my favorite overall SMtZ albums.  Even if it is quieter and less diverse than other ones, the melodies and song structures are really solid.

The band is back up to seven people for this recording with all of the former players playing but with Scott Levine Gilmore on drums.

  • Thierry Amar – contrabass, glasses, harmonica, voice
  • Becky Foon – cello, voice
  • Ian Ilavsky – guitar, harmonium, voice
  • Scott Levine Gilmore – drums, percussion, guitar, mandolin, voice
  • Efrim Menuck – guitar, piano, voice
  • Jessica Moss – violin, piano, glasses, voice
  • Sophie Trudeau – violin, trumpet, glasses, voice

[READ: May 3, 2016] The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard

Eddie Campbell wrote The Black Diamond Detective Agency which I enjoyed, and The Fate of The Artist, which I enjoyed even more.  Both were pretty unusual–lots of different things going on.  Well, this book has even more stuff going on in it.

I genuinely didn’t know what to expect from this.  I assumed it would be a biography of Jules Léotard, the daredevil acrobat who developed the art of trapeze, popularized the one-piece item that bears his name and was the inspiration for the song “The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze.”

But in this book that Jules Léotard dies on page 12.  Upon his deathbed, with no will written, his worldly possession (a fake mustache) is bequeathed to his nephew, Etienne.  So Etienne puts on the mustache and flies to Paris (in a hot air balloon, of course) to join Leotard’s troupe of circus performers.  When he finds out that they have eaten most of the animals because they were starving, his plans change somewhat.

And so this book is all about Etienne pretending to be the (possibly reincarnated) amazing Léotard and the fascinating adventures he gets up to. (more…)

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ninthSOUNDTRACK: Thee Silver Mountain Reveries-The “Pretty Little Lightning Paw” E.P. [CST030] (2004).

lightpawAfter three albums, it was time to make an EP under yet another variant of the band’s name.  This is a fun release (which is interesting to say about a band who is typically quite serious).  What made this “fun” is that many of the band members switched instruments for this recording. Violinist Sophie Trudeau plays bass guitar.  Guitarist Ian Ilavsky, usually one of the band’s guitarists, plays drums.

Also when they finished recording, was complete, the EP was played on a boombox and re-recorded from that.  I can’t tell that it was recorded in this way, so who knows if that made any difference.

There are four songs, “More Action! Less Tears!” is the first.  It begins with Aimee shouting “Hello!  Hello!” and then messing up and laughing.  So she begins again, “The name of this song is More Action.  The name of this song is Less Tears.”  It sounds unlike anything that SMtZ have done so far.  The guitar that opens it is distorted and plays a fairly conventional riff while the violins play a suitable melody over the top.  The strings build and the songs oars.

“Microphones in the Trees” opens with a guitar melody that’s quickly joined by the same melody on upright bass.  Efrim begins singing (his voice is distorted and echoed and sounds almost more like an instrument than a voice, although you can hear the lyrics: “microphones in the trees, cameras in the sky.”  The choir starts singing along with him until about three minutes when a wash of noise over takes the song. This lasts for a few minutes and then fades, allowing the words to continue.  About half way into the song a rather shambolic chorus sings “we are the flood.”  The last two minutes or so are simply feedbacky noises wafting around.

“Pretty Little Lightning Paw”is the ten-minute title track.  It opens with bass notes and chimed notes.  The strings follow Efrim’s vocal lines (which sound ragged and quiet).  And then after a minute or so new strings come in, slightly unsettling sounding.  About three minutes in the 4 voice choir begins singing an alternate melody above Efrim’s repeated mantra.  The song continues in this vein for pretty much the rest of the song, only modifying at the end where the sounds and feedback resemble birdsong.

“There’s a River in the Valley Made of Melting Snow” is 5 minutes long and is basically a solo song from Efrim.  He plays guitar, sings and plays “toybox.”  The melody is fairly simple and his voice sounds pretty good–not too shrill.  It may be the most conventional song that SMtZ has recorded.

While this EP doesn’t deviate drastically from the band’s normal sound, it is fun to see them mix things up a bit.   For this recording, the band was

  • Thierry Amar – violin, bass guitar, vocals, pianohandle
  • Ian Ilavsky – drums
  • Efrim Menuck – guitar, piano, organ, vocals, feedback, toybox
  • Jessica Moss – violin, vocals
  • Sophie Trudeau – bass guitar
  • [Beckie Foon is absent]

[READ: May 5, 2016] The Ninth Circle

Brendan and I went to college together.  In fact, I knew Brendan from his submissions to both the newspaper and the literary magazine.  He was a major talent back then (I still remember details from the story he submitted twenty some years ago) and continues to be one now.  He works in comics and has written for Flash Gordon, his own book Scatterbrain and something that I can’t wait to find a copy of: Charlie Sheen: Vatican Assassin Warlock.  Check out his output on Goodreads.

This is his first published novel, I believe. And I was hooked from the first chapter.

The story is about 16-year-old Dan.  His family is a disaster–his brother is obsessively mean to him, his father is an alcoholic, his mother is probably sleeping with someone else, and neither parent gives him the time of day.  For his 16th birthday they take him to the circus, even though he never said he wanted to go to the circus.  His brother promises to get revenge for having to go to this lame spectacle.

Dan’s not even sure that he’s going to like it, but he winds up being mesmerized from the moment he walks in.  The trickster tricks him, the freaks entice him (he finds the bearded lady especially enchanting) and the whole show is truly amazing.  Later that night, while lying in bed thinking about his crappy life, Dan decides to take action. (more…)

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tny6.16&23.03 cvrSOUNDTRACK: SIGUR RÓS-Ba Ba Ti Ki Di Do (2004).

babaI didn’t realize that this was a soundtrack to Merce Cunningham’s dance piece Split Sides.  That doesn’t really change my opinion of the music, although it does make me wonder just what kind of dance this would have been.

There are three tracks on this short EP.  The primary instrument seems to be the music box.  There are no real vocals on the album, except for what sounds like sampled children and a few spoken words in the final track (the words are the title of the EP sampled and thrown around, apparently spoken by Cunningham).  Of course, it’s not all music box, there are synths and interesting percussive sounds (what sounds like the winding up of said music boxes).  The first two songs are quite similar, with the second being a bit more fleshed out.

The final track, with the sampled words, sounds much different and feel a bit more aggressive, although that is all relative of course.  The whole EP is about 20 minutes long.  Of all of Sigur Rós’ varied output (singles and EPs) this is probably the least essential one that is all new music.

[READ: November 8, 2013] “City of Clowns”

I had printed out all of the New Yorker stories that Alarcón had written because I enjoyed his previous ones so much. This was the first and I was blown away by how good it was.

It is a long and somewhat complicated story.

It opens with Oscarcito going to the hospital because his father died the night before.  He finds his mother mopping floors because his father’s bill was unpaid.  And in that very first paragraph, she introduces her son to Carmela—the woman whom his father left them for.  She was mopping the floor with Oscarcito’s  mother.  He is confused and enraged by this.

His half brothers are also there.  He had never met them before, preferring to stay away from his father’s other life.  But he saw them in front of him and clearly saw that they were related to him.  But the most galling thing was that although he was the oldest of all the children, they were clearly the chosen children—after all, his father stayed with them.

Then we learn about his father’s life.  He was born in Cerro de Pasco and moved to Lima when his young family was still young.  He worked hard in semi legitimate businesses and then brought his family to the city.  Young Oscarcito, age 8, loved it.  But his mother hated missing her family in Cerro de Pasco.  And now they we reliving with his father who was practically a stranger. His father worked hard and succeeded, but he was rarely home (more…)

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