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Archive for the ‘Field Recordings’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: KATE CARR-“The Ladder Is Always There” (2018).

At the end of every year publications and sites post year end lists.  I like to look at them to see if I missed any albums of significance.  But my favorite year end list comes from Lars Gottrich at NPR.  For the past ten years, Viking’s Choice has posted a list of obscure and often overlooked bands.  Gottrich also has one of the broadest tastes of anyone I know (myself included–he likes a lot of genres I don’t).  

Since I’m behind on my posts at the beginning of this year, I’m taking this opportunity to highlight the bands that he mentions on this year’s list.  I’m only listening to the one song unless I’m inspired to listen to more.

Kate Carr creates Field Recordings.  But she then manipulates them into soundscapes.  This track, “The Ladder Is Always There,” has an incredibly sinister tone–and that title doesn’t help.  The recording was done on or under the water and the sounds I hear include a tuned radio (or something), a vacuum cleaner going back and forth (clearly not), electronic receptors beeping, birds modified (or maybe recorded from underwater), dripping water, breathing, clanging, seagulls and waves crashing.

Gottrich describes whats she does as “not only mapping bodies of water and landscapes in field recordings, but engaging with the environment as an active participant.

It is certainly strange to listen to something that you could (in theory, but not in actuality) go out side and hear for yourself.  Even if you could go outside and hear this, there’s no way it would be curated in this way.  So while this is indeed listening to nature, Carr has sculpted nature into an aural exercise that’s really engaging.

I’ve listened to a few more pieces on this disc and while none are quite as engaging as “the ladder” none are dull either.  I can’t decide when I would most enjoy listening to this.  Sitting a lone in my car at lunch time with my eyes closed or in bed by myself later at night.  Even listening at work is strangely intoxicating.

You can hear the whole disc and more at her bandcamp site.

[READ: December 29, 2018] “Plante’s Ferry”

Apparently, I’ve read a bunch by Jess Walter although I don’t have much recollection of his stories.

This one is set in an unnamed place in the unspecified past.

The narrator explains that Bonin liberated the Scots’ pelts and then the two of them rode the lower trail until they arrived where the Frenchman ran a ferry across the river.

He hopes they were not followed, but they are not going to slow down.  They must get across the river.

The ferry is not cheap and since they are being chased because of Bonin’s action, the narrator wordlessly insists that Bonin pays his fare too. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ANGEL OLSEN-“Give It Up” (Field Recordings, January 6, 2017).

Angel Olsen has a rough, gritty un-angelic voice.  But it’s a powerful voice  And the church [Watch Angel Olsen Perform In A Bronx Church] makes it sound even bigger and more powerful than it normally does.

It was raining in New York on Nov. 9, 2016, and New Yorkers, tired as the rest of the country from a late night after a long election season, walked about in a fog of their own. The sky was still overcast when we met Angel Olsen at the Fordham University Church, an 1845 New York City landmark whose carillon is said to have inspired Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Bells.” There, wearing a green raincoat and accompanying herself on electric guitar, she sang “Give It Up,” from her excellent 2016 release My Woman.

Even though she sounds in great voice (and guitar) the naked setting really highlight the ache in her voice (which seems to break at certain point).  I’m sure she felt as shitty as the rest of did on that day, and it really comes across.  God, I have to stop watching things from November 2016,

[READ: January 25, 2018] “The American Boyfriend”

This story came out in 2001 and was written by a North Korean writer and was translated by Yu Young-nan.

It is set in Moscow in the early 1990s.

McCunly was a young American living Moscow.  He got to know a pretty young woman named Katya.

He flirted with her and told her thing like the checkers of my coat symbolize our straightforward lives being intertwined.  He also told her that he was unmarried.

She was thrilled at his declaration of love and told her brother all about the American. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SLOWDIVE-“Sugar for the Pill” (Field Recordings, June 13, 2017).

It has been nearly a year since NPR Music broadcast its last Field Recording.  From 2012-2017, these were fun, interesting opportunities to put a band in an unlikely setting and have them play a song live,

There are 80 some of these recordings (see the whole shebang here), and I’ve decided to focus on “Slowdive Fills A Shuffleboard Parlor With Shimmering Sound.”

Before a month-and-change ago, Slowdive hadn’t released an album in 22 years. So you’d be forgiven for watching the band perform “Sugar For The Pill” and struggling to pin down what era you’re in — especially since NPR Music plopped the group in a playfully retro Brooklyn shuffleboard parlor for the occasion.

This live recording might be stripped down (I’m not sure), but it sounds great. Neil Halstead plays a pretty, shimmering guitar and sings with his distinctive whispered vocals.  Rachel Goswell is there to provide her delicate harmonies as well.  With them are Nick Chaplin (I assume) on bass.  The bass sounds terrific.  The low end is really good and moves the song along perfectly.  Simon Scott is there to add electronic drums.

A patient mid-tempo gem that’s as hooky as it is hypnotic, “Sugar For The Pill” is a particular highlight, so it’s a joy to watch the reconstituted band trot it out for this Field Recording, filmed at Royal Palms Shuffleboard in Brooklyn.

I don;t understand how this song sounds so good in a shuffleboard facility, but it does.  It sounds great.

[READ: January 4, 2017] “Dido’s Lament”

I really love Hadley’s stories.  I love that she is able to write compellingly about small moments–moments that aren’t going to end a person’s life, but will certainly impact it.

This story starts with Lynette.  She is shopping in a John Lewis–and is quite embarrassed about it.  She is described as “tall, anxious, original, in her late thirties…her hair was shaved above her ears and the rest of it, dyed bronze and pink, was piled up in a striking bird’s nest mess.” It’s the way she throws in that word “original” that I love.

A man pushes though the crowd and knocks her over.  She stumbles and hurts her ankle while trying not to trip over a stroller.

There is no way she is going to let this guy do that and not apologize or acknowledge what he did.  So she runs after him.  She is determined not to hobble or let anyone see her in pain, so she deals with the pain and goes in pursuit of the coat that she knows he is wearing.

She finally catches him on a subway platform.  She taps him on the shoulder ready to yell at him  But when he turns around, she realizes that not only does she know him, she used to be married to him.  She and Toby had separated nine years earlier.  He seems bigger now, but more confident in his ways.  Rather than yell at him, she was struck mute until he turned and was so excited to see her! (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Copps Coliseum, Hamilton, ON (December 11 1996).

This is the final show on Rheostatics Live in which the band is opening for The Tragically Hip.

For this show, the intro music is also from The Wizard of Oz, but this time it’s Judy singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”  It’s just one verse before fading out and then guitars fading in for Martin to play “A Mid Winter Night’s Dream.”

Turns out that this setlist is similar to the one from Buffalo with a lot of new songs.  Although there are a few older/more popular songs in places.

The new songs include “Fat” which sounds great of course.  I gather they are maybe sharing a microphone because at the end Dave says “See you in the next song, Martin.”  “Okay, Dave.”  This leads into a perfect version of “All the Same Eyes.”

Martin says “We are the Rheostatics.”  Dave says “We are the Rheostatics, not to be confused with The Howell Brothers (?).  They couldn’t make it but we got their jackets.  It’s nice of you to come out early.  We’re playing selections from our new record. Get it before it’s reduced to clear.”  (You can hear someone laugh on tape).

This is a segue into the single “Bad Time to Be Poor.”  It’s followed by another Tim song, “Claire” with the acoustic guitar opening in place.  There’s another lengthy guitar solo, although it’s not quiet as exciting as some of the other ones.  But Martin was saving up for a spirited version of “California Dreamline.”

They end their set with a rough rocking “Feed Yourself.”  During the spoken part, they slow things down to just a bass and washes of guitar.  It’s a pretty intense ending and a good preparation for The Tragically Hip.

[READ: June 25, 2017] The Story of Canada in 150 Objects

In celebration of Canada’s 150th year, Canadian Geographic and The Walrus created this special issue–a fun way to describe many elements of Canadian culture through “objects.”

The objects are grouped in vague categories.  Some have just a few words written about them while others get a few pages.  Some are humorous, some are more serious.  Most are happy or amusing, some not so much.  And all of it together paints a diverse and complex portrait of the country–as well as teaching this person from South of the border a number of things I did not know.

It’s with comic pride and humility that the first object is politeness (which is not an object at all, of course).  The amusing thing about this article about “politeness” is that while the author of it is very pleased to be so polite, he also can’t wait for his fellow Canucks to forget to be polite so he can rub it in with a extra smarmy “You’re Welcome.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DEER TICK-“Main Street” (Field Recordings, July 18, 2012).

NPR created a bunch of Field Recordings at Sasquatch Music Festival.  I picked this one [Deer Tick Among the Honey Buckets]  primarily because it featured Deer Tick front man John McCauley singing front of a bunch of porta potties.

I actually don’t know much about Deer Tick, so I don’t know if they normally sound folky or what.  But this song, in its acoustic setting is very good.  John McCauley’s voice works great here.  There’s even a nice shout out to MCA.

There’s not a ton to it, and this alone won’t make me a fan, but I’ll certainly check out more by them.  It’s also a nice video to watch, especially for the amusing encore.

[READ: August 1, 2012] “The Use of Myth in History”

Most of the articles in Colonial Williamsburg have to do with, well, Colonial Williamsburg.  This one, however, talks about myths that we as Americans have created and continue to believe, from colonial times to more days.

The article opens by explaining that Patrick Henry’s famous “give me liberty or give me death” speech was written down forty-two years after the fact by William Wirt.  And he wrote it down from memory, so who knows what words Henry actually spoke.  But no doubt Wird got the gist right.  So the Henry speech is a myth–not necessarily wrong but not exactly true either.

Klein explains that some historians would like to remove the myths from history and focus only on the facts, but stories like Henry’s are so popular, so ingrained in our memories, that removing them would do more damage than the beloved myths do.  Indeed, some historians believe that myths are very important.  Micheal Gerson wrote, “We know that myths are not the same as lies” and John Thorn said “Historians have an obligation to embrace myth as the people’s history”

Klein writes that America’s mythology was largely created by writers from the early 1800s.  Pressure was building towards the War of 1812 and they needed support.  The mythology was designed to get people to forget about the ugly Revolutionary War.  And so stories were created just in time for the birth of public education in America to disseminate the stories.  And so mythological stories like George Washington and the cherry tree or the midnight ride of Paul Revere or Plymouth Rock or even Pocahontas became enshrined in textbooks.  Now, most myths are based on facts, but the truths were embellished and made more romantic and given a moral.  So, yes Patrick Henry did give a speech, the Pilgrims settled in Plymouth and Paul Revere did ride into the countryside to warn of the British invasion. but probably not exactly as we think they did.  So nineteenth century writers made George Washington the symbol of our country–a unifying power to embody a nation. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: METRIC-“Synthetica” (Field Recordings, June 20, 2012).

After playing the Sasquatch festival, Emily Haines and James Shaw of Metric went behind the stadium and played a beautiful acoustic rendition of the title song from their latest album.  This Field Recording [Metric In A Non-Synthetic Situation] is just so wide open as to be inconceivable–especially since they’d just played a festival.

Metric make beautiful music which is rocking and usually full of all manner of electronic noises.  To hear Haines’ voice stripped from any effects shows just what a great and interesting voice she has.   It’s always nice to hear the song underneath the song.  This is a great version of the song.  Watch it here.

[READ: July 25, 2012] “Putting the Red in Redcoats”

Have you ever thought about how the redcoats’ coats became red?  No, me either.  Well, amazingly, it came from the Cochineal, the same bug that is still used today to color foods.

Cochineal bugs are pretty bizarre.  The female lives her entire life on a prickly pear cactus.  When she hatches, she clamps onto the prickly pear and starts feeding.  She grows to the size of a head of a pin. but never leaves the spot.  The male flies around, but only lives for a week.  The female lays eggs and the babies continue the process.

Although she is immobile, she is also armed with carminic acid, which predators don’t like.  Carminic acid is a vibrant red colorant.  Aztecs first mined this amazing color, which naturally impressed Spanish conquistadores who wanted to take it for themselves.  And they made a lot of money selling it to Europe.  But the Spanish never told anyone that the color came from bugs–they kept the secret for themselves.

Of course pirates and privateers would often hijack ships (one score captured 27 tons of cochineal!). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NOW, NOW-“But I Do” (Field Recordings, August 8, 2012).

This is an NPR Field Recording, [Now Now at Graffiti Park]which means they brought equipment to Graffiti Park in Texas and recorded Now, Now playing this song live.  You can watch the video here.

The video opens with the band lugging their gear into the weird little foundation of space.  (This explains why there are no drums, clearly).  And so the band with two guitars and a xylophone (and a shaker) play their song and sound great doing it.  This is something of a stripped down version of the bands usually more shoegazery sound, but even in this format the band sounds great–the song is catchy, the melody is pretty and their harmonies are great.

I haven’t heard the original of this, but this is now the third Now, Now song that I’ve really enjoyed.

[READ: August 1, 2012] “Mecklenburg’s Declaration of Independence”

The previous issue of Colonial Williamsburg surprised me with several articles that I found really interesting.  Although this issue was filled with a little more about current local happenings (bulldozers and updates) they still managed to pack in a number of interesting articles.

According to this article, in 1775 Captain James Jack delivered a document to the Second Continental Congress.  On May 19, 1775, select officers from North Carolina, seeing the kind of fighting that was happening against the British in Massachusetts made up several resolves.  The fist stated:

We hearby absolve ourselves from all allegiance to the British Crown, and abjure all political connection, contract, or association, with that nation, who have wantonly trampled on our rights and liberties, and inhumanely shed the blood of American patriots at Lexington.

This “declaration of independence:” preceded Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence by fourteen months.  The document never reached its destination in the intended form and it was almost forgotten.

But then in 1819, the editor of the Raleigh Register and North Carolina Gazette wrote about this “Mecklenburg Declaration.”  The news surprised John Adams who had never heard of the document.  Adams praised the document (Adams didn’t really like Jefferson).  But Jefferson called it questionable: “I believe it spurious.”  This led to an intrastate rivalry with Virginia claiming the Declaration of Independence as the true one and North Carolina claiming the Declaration of Independence a plagiarism!  Jefferson even went as far as to question the patriotism of North Carolinians.

The controversy is complicated by a document from May 31 a facsimile of which seems to show signatures cut from court records and imitations of the designer’s handwriting.

It’s all somewhat moot as the Continental Congress applauded the intention of the letter but felt that adopting the Mecklenburg resolves was premature.  And therefore it was not a usurper of the actual Declaration of Independence.  But in North Carolina, the document is held up as official.  It became a page of official North Carolina history in 1831 and in 1861, the state voted  to add the date to the state flag.

American history caught up in 1954 when President Eisenhower acknowledged the men who signed the “Mecklenburg Declaration.”  Who knew?

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