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Archive for the ‘Fears’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: KIRILL GERSTEIN-Tiny Desk Concert #957 (March 11, 2020).

I can’t really keep track of classical pianists. There are so many who are truly amazing.  But I love hearing them.  I also like it when they have a good sense of humor, which most of them seem to have.

The last time pianist Kirill Gerstein was at NPR we gave him a full-size, grand piano to play in a big recording studio. But for this Tiny Desk performance, we scaled him down to our trusty upright. “What will you ask me to play the next time,” he quipped, “a toy piano?”

Even if we had handed him a pint-sized instrument, I’m sure Gerstein could make it sing. Just listen to how Chopin’s lyrical melodies, built from rippling notes and flamboyant runs, flow like a song without words in Gerstein’s agile hands.

What sets Gerstein apart?  Perhaps its his connection to jazz.

The 40-year-old pianist, born in Voronezh, Russia, taught himself to play jazz by listening to his parents’ record collection. A chance meeting with vibraphonist Gary Burton landed him a scholarship to study jazz at Boston’s Berklee College of Music. At age 14, Gerstein was the youngest to enroll at the institution.

He opens the set with Chopin: “Waltz in A-flat, Op. 42.”  It is fast and amazing with some slow, jaunty parts.  Near the end, wow, doe he pound out those bass chords.

Before the second piece he says that it hasn’t been heard on a recording yet–it’s a newly written piece by Thomas Adès.  Two lovers want to hide in the closet and … sleep with each other.  They emerge dead in the morning, so its lascivious and morbid and a very beautiful piece.

The Berceuse for solo piano was written for Gerstein by Thomas Adès, adapted from his 2016 opera The Exterminating Angel. The work, both brooding and beautiful, receives its premiere recording at the Tiny Desk.

It is slow and beautiful, full of sadness and longing.  Until the end when the bass comes pounding and rumbling, full of ominous threat and dread.  And listen to how long he lets those last bass notes ring out!

Up next is a piece by Liszt who I am particularity fond of (even if I only know a few of his pieces).  Gerstein says that Liszt is perhaps the greatest composer that ever touched the instrument.  There are several hundred not famous pieces.  This is a late piece called “A quick Hungarian march.”  Technically it’s called “Ungarischer Geschwindsmarsch”

Gerstein follows by dusting off a truly neglected – and quirky – Hungarian March by Franz Liszt. To my knowledge it’s been recorded only once.

It is jaunty and spirited until the middle where it goes back and forth between fast runs and bouncy melodies.

Since I hadn’t read about his jazz background the first time I listened to this concert I was really surprised when he said he’d be playing the Gershwin-Earl Wild standard “Embraceable You” which he says is for dessert at this lunchtime concert.

Gerstein’s jazz background is still close to his heart. Which brings us to his lovely-rendered closer: Gershwin’s “Embraceable You,” arranged by the American pianist Earl Wild.

Like all master performers, Gerstein gives you the illusion that he’s making it all up as he goes along, even though the virtuosic transcription is intricately mapped out. And somehow, he makes that upright piano sound nine feet long.

It really does sound like he is working on the fly–playing beautiful runs. It’s hard to imagine transcribing and learning all of those notes instead of just improvising them, but that’s what make a great pianist, I guess.

[READ: November 2019] The Abyss

I saw this book at work and thought, a turn of the 20th century Russian author writing about the Abyss?  What’s not to like?

I had not heard of Leonid Andreyev, perhaps because much of his work has not been translated into English.  He died in 1919 and is considered “the leading exponent of the Silver Age of Russian literature.”

This book was translated by Hugh Aplin and it is remarkable how contemporary these stories sound (aside from obviously nineteenth and twentieth century details).

Bargamot and Garaska (1898)
Bargamot was a policeman–a big, thick-headed policeman.  His superiors called him numskull.  But the people on the streets he looked after were quite fond of him because he knew the area and what he knew he knew very well.  This story is set on Easter Saturday night.  People would soon be going to church.  But he was on duty until three o’ clock and he wouldn’t be able to eat until then. The day was going smoothly and he would soon be home until he saw Garaksa, clearly drunk, heading his way: “Where he had managed to get sozzled before daylight constituted his secret, but that he had got sozzled was beyond all doubt.”  Bargamot threatened to send Garaska to the station, but Garaska talked to him about the festivities of the day and was about to present to him an egg (a Russian custom).  But Bargamot’s rough handling smashed the egg.  This story turns surprisingly tender and sad, with a rather touching final line.

A Grand Slam (1899)
This has nothing to do with baseball.  It is about a card game called Vint, which is similar to bridge.  For six years these four people have been playing it: fat hot-tempered Maslennikov (whose name is Nikolai Dmitriyevich, we find out about five pages in) paired with old man Yakov Ivanovich and Yevpraksia Vasilyevna paired with her gloomy brother Prokopy Vailyevich.  Dmitriyevich desperately wanted a grand slam but he had been paired with Yakov Ivanovich who never took risks. Ivanovich was very conservative and never bet more than four–even when he ran an entire trick, he never bet more than four–you never know what might happen. They speak of news and local happenings (like the Dreyfus Affair), but Dmitriyevich stays focused on the game because his cards are lining up for a Grand Slam.  As he goes for that last card, he falls out of his chair, presumably dead.

Silence (1900)
This story is divided into sections.  Fr. Ignaty and his wife need to speak with their daughter Vera. They have a fight and Fr. Ignaty refuses to speak to her any more.  Soon enough she goes out and throws herself under a train [I would hate to be a train conductor in Russia].  In Part II silence has fallen over the house.  In Part III he tries to talk to his wife about his feelings and his sadness over their daughter, but she remains silent.  In the final part, Fr Ignaty finally breaks down.  But is it the silence that has gotten to him?

Once Upon a Time There Lived (1901)
Laventy Petrovich was a large man. He went to Moscow for someone in the city to look at his unusual illness.  He was a silent and morose man and he specifically asked for no visitors.  The hospital assigned Fr. Deacon to him.  Fr. Deacon was another patient, unfailingly positive.  He and Petrovich were at opposite sides of the spectrum.  But even as it became clear that Fr. Deacon was deathly ill, he remained positive.  Until Petrovich told him that the doctors said that Fr. Deacon has a week to live.  There was also a young student who was daily visited by the girl he loved.  They liked Fr deacon and did not like Petrovich. I’m not sure if the ending is a surprise, but it is certainly sudden with happiness doled out in very specific ways.

A Robbery in the Offing (1902)
That night there was to be a robbery and maybe a murder.  A man, alone with his thought is scared by nearly everything–he is very jumpy because he is the one about to do the robbery.  The man was frightened by a noise until he saw it was a little puppy.  The puppy was shivering and the man tried to frighten him to get him to go home. But the puppy seemed too ignore him.  So began the battle of wits between a big strong man and a tiny freezing puppy.  Imagine a man with a robbery in the offing worrying about a little puppy.

The Abyss (1902)
Two young lovers went for a walk.  Zinochka was 17 and very much in love.  Nemovetsky was 21 and similarly in love.  They wandered into an area they didn’t recognize and happened upon three men.  The men punched Nemovetsky and knocked him out then they chased Zinochka . When he came to, he found her body, naked but still alive.  This was a hard story to read.

Ben Tobit (1903)
This was one of the first stories in the book that I really really liked.  It is set on the day of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion.  On that day, Jerusalem merchant Ben Tobit had a terrible toothache.  Ben was a kind man and did not like injustice, but it was hard to be kind with this much pain.  His wife tried to help by giving him various medicines (like purified rat droppings). She then tried to distract him when the thieves came trudging past on their way to the crucifixion site.  It distracted him somewhat but mostly didn’t interest him.  She said, “They say he healed the blind.”  He replied, “If only he’d cure this toothache of mine!.”  The next day he felt better and they walked to the site to see what they missed.

Phantoms (1904)
Yegor Timofeyevich had gone mad so his relatives collected money to send him to a clinic.  He knew he was in a madhouse but also knew that he could make himself incorporeal and walk wherever he wanted.  He was exceedingly happy. There was a patient who would continually knock on any locked door.  He would walk through all the unlocked doors but when he got to a locked one he would knock and knock and knock.

There was a doctor’s assistant the hospital named Maria Astafeevna, whom Yegor was certain liked him.  He thought very highly of her.  But another man Petrov could say nothing nice about her.  He felt that she was like all women: debauched deceitful and mocking. This attitude upset Yegor tremendously.  Maria was actually in love with Dr Shevyrov. But she hated that he went to Babylon–where he drank three bottles of champagne each night until 5 AM.  She imagined that one day she would ask to be his wife bit only if he stopped going there.

The man Petrov was also terrified of his mother, believing that she had bribed officials to lock him up. He would become hysterical when she would visit.  It was only Yegor’s assurances to her that her son was a decent man that made her feel okay.

Most days things went on exactly the same, the same faces, the same conversation and the same knocking.

The Thief (1904)
Fyodor Yurasov was a thrice-convicted thief.  While on the train, even though he had plenty of money, he stole a gentleman;s purse.  As he tried to blend in, he imagined everyone thought he was an honest, young German (he came up with the name Heinrich Walter).  But when he tried to be civil, everyone ignored him.  Some were downright rude to him.  Later when he hears that the gendarme are looking for someone, he assumed it is he.

Lazarus (1906)
This story looks at what Lazarus’ life was like after he came back–appearing a few days dead and with a shorter temper.  People understood and forgave him, but still.  Soon, however, people began to avoid him and claimed that all of the madmen in the village were people whom Lazarus had looked upon.   It’s such an interesting (if exceeding dark) tale that no one bothered to investigate before.

A Son of Man (1909)
As Fr. Ivan Bogoyavlensky grew older he grew more disatisfied with his role in life.  He wanted to remove his surname and replace it with a five-digit number (The church elders assumed he’d gone mad).  He then bought a gramophone and listened only to stories of Jewish and Armenian life.  His wife hated it and it drove their puppy mad (?!).  Indeed he kept trying to get the puppies to listen to the gramophone and they consistently went crazy and eventually died.  The church sent a deacon to help Fr Ivan through this but he the deacon and Fr Ivan butted heads immediately.  Fr Ivan began mocked everything about their religion.

Incaution (1910)
A priest arrived at a railway station and saw a steam engine for the first time. There was no one around, so he climbed aboard.  It wouldn’t be dangerous to flick some switches and pull some levers.  Would it?

Peace (1911)
A dignitary was dying and an devil–an ordinary devil–came to his bedside offering him eternal life in hell.  The man didn’t want to suffer but the devil said that suffering was terrible until you got used to it and then it was nothing.  The devil makes a stronger and stronger case if only the man would take this pen and sign.

Ipatov (1911)
Nikolai Ipatov was a rich merchant who went bankrupt. Soon he became silent and despondent.  The local priest chastised him saying that the house of god was a house of joy.  He refused to let the merchant back in until he grew happy again.  Which he didn’t.  Eventually his children took over the situation and and put his house up for sale.  But when someone came to look at the house, they heard Ipatov’s moaning and grew existential realizing that a man without guilt could still be afflicted this way.

The Return (1913)
The narrator had been in a cell n St Peterburg for three years because of a political incident.  His wife, who was supposed to be waiting for him in a hotel room had stepped out with another man.  He hired a cab to follow them.  They kept driving around and around, some streets seeming to stretch on endlessly.  Then the cab driver told him that they had been at the same intersection many times.  He finally arrived at the gate and when he banged on it, who should open the gate but his prison guard.

The Flight (1914)
Yury Mikhailovich was an experienced pilot.  Twenty eight flights and no troubles.   He always felt, “If I crash, I crash, nothing to be done about it.”  Despite everything he had on earth, he longed to be up ion the sky…possibly forever.  It’s incredible that Andreyev wrote a story like this in 1914!

 

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81HkprYowjLSOUNDTRACK: SNOH AALEGRA-Tiny Desk Concert #946 (February 18, 2020).

maxresdefault (2)In what seems to be a new trend at the Tiny Desk, here’s another artist whom I’ve never heard of somehow and who manages to cram five songs into 16 minutes.  (I won’t complain about the length of this show because it’s not that long, but everyone knows you get three songs).

The most fascinating things about Snoh is that she is Iranian-Swedish.  And that her band is enormous.  And that they all have great names like: O’Neil “Doctor O” Palmer on keys, George “Spanky” McCurdy on drums and Thaddaeus Tribbett on bass.  There’s also Jef Villaluna on guitar whose name isn’t that crazy,

Unfortunately her songs and albums have terrible names.

Her new album is called Ugh, those feels again and her previous album is called Feels. (and she’s not even millennial).  And then the third song is called “Whoa.”  Good grief,

“Whoa” is a sweet love song that is detailed but not explicit.  Except the chorus which is “you make me feel like, whoa.”

The rest of her songs have a very delicate soft-rock vibe.  Especially with the string section of Ashley Parham on violin, Johnny Walker, Jr. on cello, Asali McIntyre on violin and Brandon Lewis on viola.

But apparently that’s not what her music typically sounds like.

On this day in particular, Aalegra’s tracks were stripped of their punchier, album-version kick drums and trap echoes. In their absence, it’s Aalegra’s delicate vocal runs and chemistry with her supporting singers that resonated most. “I Want You Around” and “Whoa,” which usually rest on a bed of glitchy, spiraling production, felt lighter thanks to the dreamy string section.

All of the songs featured her backing vocalists Ron Poindexter and Porsha Clay,  but they were especially prominent on “Fool For You” which ran all of two minutes.

Snoh seemed a little too cool up there, which did not endear me to her.  Her voice is certainly pretty though, even if I didn’t like her songs.

[READ: March 15, 2020] Best Friends

This book is a sequel of sorts to Real Friends.

It continues the story of young Shannon in sixth grade and how she deals with the minefields that middle school can present.

The same cast is back–the good and bad friends, the girls and boys and all of the insecurities that are practically a character in themselves.

As the book opens, Shannon realizes that she and her friends are not really in sync. She can’t keep up with the pop songs that they like–how do they always know the newest cool song (her family doesn’t listen to pop music so she is way out of the loop).

But aside form that, things seem good.  Shannon is best friends with Jen, the most popular girl in their class.  And since they are the oldest grade in school, Jen is therefore the most popular girl in school.

But the girls are always sniping at each other or trying to get Shannon so say nasty things about one of the other girls behind her back (while the girl was listening).  Shannon never did, though, because she is really a good person.  Something the other girls could use some help with, (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LAURA STEVENSON-Tiny Desk Concert #945 (February 14, 2020).

maxresdefault (1)I don’t know Laura Stevenson, but she has a very pretty voice.

She is a singer-songwriter who I gather plays fairly stripped down songs.  But Bob Boilen wanted to spruce things up–I’ve never heard of him directly interfering in a Tiny Desk before–I wonder how often he does,

It was supposed to be so simple. Laura Stevenson, a singer-songwriter whose new material radiates warm intensity, would come in and knock us out with an intimate acoustic solo set … So I came to Bob with the idea … but Bob is nothing if not a pesky dreamer — a man who lives his life in pursuit of beauty and the creation of hard work for other people — so he suggested a wrinkle. What if we commissioned string arrangements for three songs from Stevenson’s newest album, The Big Freeze?

And there they are.

So arranger Amy Domingues, who doubles as a marvelous D.C.-area cellist, dreamed up some charts and gathered a small ensemble (herself and violinists Shelley Matthews and Winston Yu) for accompaniment so gorgeous, Stevenson couldn’t stop remarking on it between songs.

After the first song, “Lay Back, Arms Out” she says “.”  Then she talks about being six months pregnant and how she wasn’t pregnant when she booked this show.  She says she has to move her guitar a bit but it looks cool.

“Living Room, NY” is really lovely–Stevenson’s voice is clear and pure and makes the lyrics even more poignant.

The final song is called “Dermatillomania” (which she doesn’t even define, but which is chronic skin-picking).  She says it’s the saddest one but it is the happiest-sounding.

And that’s true, at least the happy-sounding part–it’s super catchy.

But apparently the most exciting part happened after the set was over

we also got to witness what’s almost definitely the first-ever Tiny Desk marriage proposal. Shortly after Stevenson’s set had ended, Jonathan Zember got down on one knee as unobtrusively as possible and proposed to his girlfriend, Dena Rapoport; the two were attending the show as guests of an NPR staffer, and he figured it’d be a memorable spot for their big moment.

Dena said yes.  No word if Laura will write a song about it.

[READ: March 13, 2020] “The Liver”

I enjoyed Klam’s novel Who is Rich, which I found funny and fun.  So I was looking forward to this story which has a title I wasn’t sure how to emphasize.

Boy, was I surprised to read that this is a story about a premature baby.

In fact, the majority of the story is about the narrator’s stresses about this premature baby.

The story begins with Kathy in the hospital after having given birth–two month before her due date. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SUNNY WAR-Tiny Desk Concert #909 (November 13, 2019).

Sunny War says twice that she’s not going to talk.  She saves all of her words for her songs.

Her voice is soft and gentle, but her words are strong.

The first song “If It Wasn’t Broken” features the chorus “how would you know you had a heart if it wasn’t broken?”

Further lyrics in this slow and simple song:

so you lost your baby
so you lost your job
so you lost all faith
in the one you call god.

Dang.

These are words from a young woman who has been homeless, busked on city streets and Venice Beach, left home feeling she was a burden to her distraught mother, had her life complicated by drugs, and yet still found a way to pick up a guitar and bring joy to others.

Her songs aren’t complicated, but they feature some really excellent fingerpicking.  “Got No Ride” has a lot of beautiful interludes (including one part where she is fingerpicking and bending a string at the same time).

Sunny War began learning guitar from her uncle at around the age of seven. One of the early songs she learned was The Beatles’ “Blackbird,” an almost prophetic tune with the line, “Take these broken wings and learn to fly.” But it was the fingerpicking that was the attraction for Sunny War. She loved playing guitar that way as opposed to strumming and, as you watch this Tiny Desk, you’ll see what a fluid and remarkable guitar player she’s become.

The song also features some extra bass lines from Aroyn Davis (The first song didn’t really have noticeable bass).

“Love Became Pain” is a lot faster, with some really impressive guitar work.  Clearly from the title, though, this isn’t a happy song either.  I like the shuffle drums that Paul Allen gets using brushes on the cajón.

The final song, “Shell” opens with the lines:

“Before you rip your girl to shreds / Be sure you really want her dead.”

With such a pretty melody, too!

Much like her name, Sunny War’s music is a wonder of contradictions.

[READ: February 2, 2020] Rust: Volume 4

This book concludes the Rust saga.

Like the first book, there are a ton of pages with no dialogue.  This story is wonderfully told with just visuals.  And Lepp’s visuals are really amazing–what he accomplishes with such  limited color palette is really impressive.

The book starts with a flashback to the war 48 years ago.  It’s been awhile since I read the first book but I feel like this intro pages are exactly the same.  We see Jet Jones rescue a man by creating a large shield.  I’m not sure if there;s some more significance.  I’m also not sure if we’re supposed to know who the man is.

But the story quickly jumps back to the Taylor’s farm.  The really menacing robots are closing in.  Oz has a shotgun in ready.  And the engineer is carrying Jet Jones’ limp body away with him.

The robots arrive (why does it amuse me that they open the door) and Oz shoots, which awakens the family.

A terrible battle commences in the house with all of the people getting hurt, but with all of them doing a good job of harming the robots.  Jet comes in at the last second and smashes up some of the robots.  In the process reveals his mechanical arm.  The family is shocked, except for Oz.  Roman is furious that Jet lied. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SiR-Tiny Desk Concert #940 (February 3, 2020).

I had never heard of SiR, the R&B singer from Inglewood, CA.  That’s not surprising since I don’t listen to R&B.

But as I often say I’m always surprised to read that someone is very successful and yet I have never heard of them.

Since signing to hip-hop juggernaut Top Dawg Entertainment in 2017, Sir Darryl Farris has been the most consistent, most reliable player on the roster outside of its original four.  His output has further solidified the label’s stake in spaces outside of just rap music.

He sings four songs, all ballads.  His voice is somewhere between speaking and singing with an interesting raspy quality.

The songs come from his latest LP, Chasing Summer.

Themes of regret loom throughout the album and he’s never shied away from writing about personal flaws. His depiction of misdirected desires and heartbreak on “John Redcorn” and “The Recipe” reveal a cruel honesty that couples grapple with at times.

“The Recipe” has some really nice backing vocals from Davion Farris, Jacquelyn Farris and Zyah Belle.

“New Sky” has a pretty piano melody from Ledaris “L.J.” Jones with some nice fat bass from Samuel Davis.   I quite like like the vocals on the chorus.

When he introduces the band he reveals that Davion Farris is his older brother and Jacquelyn Farris is his mom.

The set was also a family affair with his mother and older brother offering support as two of the three background vocalists. We get a glimpse of his upbringing in the gospel choir once those harmonies open up.

The set proves to be unexpectedly emotional

About halfway through the performance, SiR revealed that he’d lost his infant godson a few days prior and dedicated the performance to him. “We’re doing this for him. I didn’t want to come… It took a lot for me to be here today …but we’re gonna get through this.”

He plays the spare “Wires in the Way.”  It’s just his voice with some quiet jazzy guitar from Terrall Whitehead.  Midway through some lovely jazzy piano is added.  Throughout, you can see how emotional SiR is while singing the song and then he needs a moment at the end before they start the last song.

Woah.

He is able to bring the happiness back for the last song.  He says “It’s my favorite song off the album.  Hope you like this last one.”

“John Redcorn” feels like a culmination of the other songs, with everyone playing or singing to make this song very full.  I especially like the way Roger “Jooseondrums” Benford makes the cymbals sound like they are filling up the room.

Many Tiny Desk Concerts are emotional and you;d have to be stone cold not to be moved by this one.

[READ: February 20, 2020] Princeless: Raven Book 3

Book Two ended with a cliffhanger–would Raven be able to save Ximena?  She needs to take Ximena for medical care, but she knows that she can’t go anywhere on the island, since her brothers rule everything there.

Katie looks at the maps that Ximena has been making and sees that there’s an island not too far off.  It’s a spa for people who are really injured.  They set sail immediately and Katie is put in charge while Raven stays with Ximena.  Raven reveals that she is in love with Ximena (which most of the crew guessed anyway).

Raven is told that Ximena needs to hear her voice if she is to recover and so Raven tells the story of how her mother and father met.  It’s a pretty wonderful story and is beautifully drawn by Sorah Suhng.

All this time, Sunshine has been listening at the door.  It turns out she’s quite jealous of Ximena because she has a major thing for Raven.  So when Raven asks Sunshine to tell Ximena a story, Sunshine is really torn.  But she knows how important it is so she tells the story of how her parents met–that a human and an elf could conceive.  It’s a pretty great story drawn in a very different style by Jason Strutz. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RISING APPALACHIA-Tiny Desk Concert #939 (January 31, 2020).

I feel like I have heard of Rising Appalachia, but I’m not sure that I have.  If I had, I certainly didn’t know anything by them.  But I think I had a pretty safe guess.

Rising Appalachia’s Tiny Desk Concert is charged with the roots music that sisters Leah Song and Chloe Smith learned in fiddle camps as kids. Growing up in urban Atlanta and beyond, they also heard rhythms from a wider world, and their music grew to reflect new sounds and their activism. When they came to NPR, their van was packed with a bodhrán (Irish drum), an ngoni (West African harp) a huge gourd, a cello, a baritone guitar and more, including the other musicians who make up this wandering, Atlanta-based band: David Brown, Biko Casini, Arouna Diarra and Duncan Wickel.

And so, with this band you get traditional-sounding folk music but with world music instruments and influences.  It melds beautiful.  And their lyrics are great, too.

“Resilient” starts the set with just the two of them.  Chloe Smith is on banjo while Leah Song is on bodhrán.  Their voices are great together as they sing a fantastic protest song. There’s so many great lyrics to choose from, but I’ll pick just this one

My voice feels tiny I’m sure so does yours / put em all together make a mighty roar.

There’s also a really catchy “who ho ho” in the chorus, which is a fun treat.

After the song, Leah says they are reviving the voice of the people.  Then, introducing the next song, “Medicine”  she says this is for all of our ancestors and all the medicine keepers.

Chloe switches to acoustic guitar.  The song begins with a a bowed, then plucked cello from Duncan Wickel.  Biko Casini plays a high hat with a big circular gourd for a bass and percussive sound.

There’s a very nice bowed cello solo.  Leah sings lead and Chloe adds some terrific harmonies.  Midway through the song you can really hear Arouna Diarra on the ngoni, playing some high notes, but it’s his solo at the end of the song that is so cool.  I’m fascinated by this instrument.

Before the final song, they joke that they wanted Leah to jump on the desk and that they might crowd surf.

Leah says she was going to shave I Love Bob Boilen into her hair.  Or maybe NPR, but if you mess that up it could just go wrong.

They end the set with a song Leah and Chloe “learned from our mama, an old boot-stompin’ Appalachian folk tune” called “Cuckoo.”  They aim to bring old music into a new format.

“Cuckoo” is a song I know from Kristin Hersh and, coincidentally, she played it when I saw her recently.

For this song, Leah plays the banjo and Chloe plays the violin (as does Duncan Wickel).   Their take is rather different from Kristin’s–not in the melody or lyrics but the way they sing the words.  Kristin has a very different vocal style.

The end features a njongi solo along with the baritone guitar solo from David Brown followed by a fiddle solo

And after a minute or so of soloing there’s split second pause before everyone rocks out a bit.  You can really hear the baritone guitar and its bass notes here.

I really enjoyed this set and I’m very curious about this band.

[READ: February 20, 2020] Princeless: Raven Book 2

Book One of this series was pretty intense.  And book two doesn’t really let up.

Well, the first chapter lets up some as we meet the crew and the women get used to the ship.  There are some rope climbing contests, everyone also wants to take a turn steering.  And Ximena and Raven are arguing already.

It’s a cool way to meet some of the new cast.  Dezzy would rather sunbathe than work.  Helena is very strong, Cid is deaf–which we find out because Jayla is yelling at her (to no avail obviously) and is getting frustrated and petulant–she’s a terrible character.  And powerful Sunshine is incredibly seasick.

Then they get into some sword practice. Raven addresses her crew calling them bilge rats. But Katie interrupts, “The insulting thing, is that something we have to do?”

Raven says she never thought of it.  That’s just how pirates speak. But Raven decides the ship will be a democracy (except in battle when her word is law).  She asks who finds insults to be a motivator?  No one raises her hand.  Raven hereby abolishes “name-calling, back-biting, under-cutting, insulting and sarcastic undermining” from her ship. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KIKAGAKU MOYO-“Gypsy Davey”/”Mushi No Uta” (2020).

Japanese psych rock band Kikagaku Moyo (who are amazing live) were picked for the new Sub Pop 7″ singles cub release.  I’m not part of that club, but the tracks are available to stream.  Here’s what the band says:

This is a limited release as a part of the Sub Pop Singles Club Vol. 4, and physical copies will only be available to subscribers of the series. As such, it won’t be available at our shows or in stores…but you can listen now on streaming sites.

The first song, “Gypsy Davey,” is a reworking of the traditional British folk song by the same name. We referenced Sandy Denny’s arrangement from the 1971 album Fotheringay for our performance.  We recorded the track in London with guest vocalist Kandice Holmes, aka Bells @be__lls.

The second song, “Mushi No Uta,” was written by Tomo and Go and recorded last summer in their living room.

Both of these were recorded in brief windows during our touring in 2019. We are very happy with opportunity hope you enjoy the songs.

I love the way they have taken this old English folk song “Gypsy Davey” and added some great psychedelic elements.  First off it starts with drums and some very cool sitar work.  The guitars are slow and echoing.  Then after the first verse, the full band joins in with a slow 70’s sounding folk rock (with electric guitars) song.  By the third verses, the two guitars are doing different things and it all works together very nicely.

I had never heard of Kandic Holmes (aka Bells) but her voice is perfect, sounding old school and like she has heard this song a million times and can’t wait to sing it again.

The middle of the song has a wonderful, slow sitar solo.  I love that they have taken folk and made it international folk.

“Mushi No Uta” is a slow ballad. It does sound a bit like a home made recording (or else it is recorded deliberately close-sounding).  The vocals are whispered and the guitars intertwine nicely.  After a minute and a half, expansive, echoing guitar chords come rumbling through totally changing the atmosphere.  The second guitar plays some wild lines.  After about a minute, it all fades out and the original sound returns–gentle folk acoustic guitar and falsetto vocals.

It’s a nice single and shows a different side of the band.

[READ: February 20, 2020] Princeless: Raven Book 1

I really enjoyed Book 3 of the Princeless series in which Adrienne encountered Raven locked up in a castle.

I thought Raven was a pretty awesome character and I was really happy to see that Jeremy Whitley had created a series just for her.

This series is a lot less light-hearted than the Princeless series and definitely skews a bit older than Princeless.  It’s also not quite as funny (by design, I assume).  However, it features a wonderfully diverse crew of women and all of the great feminism that Princeless is known for.

As this book opens, we see Raven’s father showing her how to shoot an arrow–how she came to be known as Black Arrow and how fearsome she was even as a child.

The story of the excitement she had as a child on her father’s ship is contrasted to the drudgery of the present–fixing up the ship that she has commandeered from her brother’s mates.  She realizes that if she is going to get revenge on her brothers for locking her up, she needs a crew.  So she heads into town where she bumps into (literally) a woman who barely speaks English and is down on her luck.  She says she ate today, but has no money left.  Raven gives her some coins and the woman replies, “You give me to have these?”  She gives Raven a huge kiss and walks off.  That’s when Raven realizes the woman stole her purse.

The rest of the chapter shows some excellently drawn chase scenes from Rosy Higgins and Ted Brandt in which the thief (who we will learn is a half-Elf named Sunshine) is impressed by Raven’s tenacity and in which Raven is impressed by Sunshine’s physical abilities.  Sunshine runs into a bar and as Raven is about to tackle her, the bar owner points a crossbow at her. (more…)

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