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Archive for the ‘Foreign Books’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: THE FLAMING LIPS-Christmas on Mars (2008).

Title aside, and despite the Lips’ love of Christmas, there is nothing Christmassey about this recording.

It’s a soundtrack to their film and it is composed of 12 instrumental pieces.  The disc (which is short) sounds like interstitial Flaming Lips pieces–songs that might appear at the end of or in between songs.

The tracks run the gamut from spooky outerspacey dirges to pretty choral numbers.  But the overall tone of the soundtrack is dark and foreboding (the movie isn’t very happy after all).

Some of the tracks (3 and 4 in particular) are prettier than other–with pretty harps and tubular bells.  But do not put this in your Christmas music rotation unless you really dislike Christmas music.

[READ: June 21, 2017] Adios, Cowboy

Hot on the heels of the depressing Sorry to Disrupt the Peace come this depressing story by Olja Savičević Ivančević (her full name according to Goodreads) translated from Croatian by Celia Hawkesworth.  In Peace, the narrator’s brother killed himself and the narrator wants to find out why.  In Adios, Cowboy, the narrator’s brother kills himself and she want to find out why.

The difference is that this book is set in Croatia, has multiple characters, multiple stories and a huge amount of confusion.

Dada (the narrator) lives in Zagreb, but she is called home to Old Settlement by her sister to help with their aging mother.  She is intrigued at the thought of going home  again after so many years.  But when she gets there, her mother has been taking all kinds of pills, her sister has pretty much given up as evidenced by her chain-smoking, their long-dead father’s shoes still lined up on the steps, and their dead younger brother’s cowboy posters of are still on the walls.  (The dead brother’s name is Daniel.  The fact that one of the characters in the previous book also about the suicide was also named Daniel really didn’t help this much). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKPHISH-Live Phish Downloads 8.13.93 UNH Fieldhouse, Durham, NH (2007).

Despite the Phish tour ending in May, the picked up again just three months later.

“Lengthwise” starts of a capella.  Guitars slowly come in as washes and then “Llama” rocks out with some great blasts and a lengthy keyboard solo from Page.

“Makisupa Policeman” is fun with a few screams from Fish.  This version really highlights the reggae aspects.  There’s a trippy middle section with twinkling pianos that segues into a terrific version of “Foam.”

When it’s over you hear someone shout “Stash?” before they launch into a 12 minute “Stash.”  There’s some unusual soloing in the middle which Trey calls the “Friday the 13th” jam.  And then he introduces the “butt with protruding arms” (Fish) to play the washboard. It’s “Ginseng Sullivan” which was performed acoustic with Trey on acoustic guitar and Fish on “Madonna” washboard

Then comes a 15 minute “Fluffhead.”  It opens with some lovely acoustic guitars. Later during part of the jam they chant “just a bundle of joy” several times.

It’s followed by the short “My Mind’s Got a Mind of It’s Own” in a very honkey-tonk style.

It’s followed by a very pretty “Horn” that segues into a 20 minute “David Bowie.”  Fish starts the hi-hats while Trey plays a whole bunch of riffs first—like “My Favorite Things” and “Beat It.”  Trey also teases “The Mango Song” and “Magilla.”   The song starts properly about 4 minutes in.  The jam goes in all different direction, a slow section, then a fast and rocking jamming.  There’s some whistling and then a very jazzy hi-hat section.  The end is super fast with a wicked guitar solo.  It’s a great set-ender.

Set two opens with”Buried Alive,” a fast short song that segues into a lovely “Rift” and a relatively slow “Bathtub Gin.”  The bass is particularly chunky during “Gin” and then the song slows completely to give Mike a little funky slap bass action.  “Bathtub Gin” which runs to 15 minutes, includes, among other things, a “Weekapaug Groove” jam.  There’s a groovy keyboard solo with shouts of “Ole!”

There’s a bit of an awkward transition into “Ya Mar” but once they get going its smooth sailing especially when Trey shouts, “just Leo and the drums” and they break it down to just keys and drums. This segues into “Mike’s Song,” but Mike has fun by still singing “Ya Mar” and it seems to mess everyone up until they catch on and go with it.  The 12 minute “Mike’s Song” includes teases of Ted Nugent’s “Stranglehold”

“Lifebuoy” is very pretty and there’s a brief “Oh Key Pah” before they launch in to a show ending “Suzy Greenberg.”  For an encore they do a very quiet (unmic’d) a capella “Amazing Grace.”  The notes say that the song was performed “without microphones and is inaudible on the DAT and cassette soundboards. To present the entire performance, an additional audience source provided by Kevin Shapiro and Judd Nudelman was used.”  Mostly you hear a lot of people SHHHHing (why do people whoop during quiet moments like this?). But they follow it with a rocking “Highway to Hell” (which sounds a lot like AC/DC’s version.)

The rest of the disc includes some soundcheck stuff.  A goofy version of “Love Me Two Times” with them trying to sound like Jim Morrison.  The 1 minute Indiana Sound check jam is fun.  And then the final track is nearly 9 minutes of them setting up the washboard for “Ginseng Sullivan.”  It’s interesting if you care about their recording process, but it’s tech more talk than music.

So this set list is pretty similar to the show in May.  There’s a lot if duplication.  And yet, according to the essay by Kevin Shapiro,

 Summer 1993 was a time when each show somehow surpassed the last.  This show is legendary among Phishheads based almost entirely on the second set!  Instantly famous for its mind-melting (or is it mind-melding?) Bathtub Gin > Ya Mar and Mike’s Song > Lifebuoy … The entire show is risky and magical in so many ways.   [It had] already been accepted as legendary and literally begs for release…. Without them, the catalog – some would even say the fan experience – is simply incomplete.

So that’s a pretty rave review.

[READ: June 5, 2017] Ich bin ein Anderer

This book (translated as I am an Other) was created by Walter Ego (great name) and is written in English (not Ego’s native langauge).

This is a collection of drawings and short essays all in praise of failure, inadequacy and unprofessionalism.

Ego draws simple stick figure line drawings and aphorisms to celebrate insecurity. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SHABAZZ PALACES-Tiny Desk Concert#661 (October 23, 2017).

Shabazz Palaces is really nothing like anything else I’ve heard.

“On the ground we have leopard skin carpets Only the exalted come in and rock with us.”

With those words, spoken in the opening moments of Shabazz Palaces‘ Tiny Desk performance, Palaceer Lazaro (aka Ishmael Butler, also of Digable Planets fame) lays the ground rules for all present to enter the group’s metaphysical headspace.

And, man, talk about being transported to the other side. It’s impossible not to envision the Seattle studio, Black Space Labs, where Shabazz’s otherworldly soundscapes emerge to provide the ideal backdrop for shining a light on the fake.

 It’s the perfect proxy for the growing sense of alienation we’re all suffering, to some degree or another, in today’s space and time.

Shabazz Palaces is perhaps the most unusual rap band I’ve heard. There are hardly any beats. The songs are trippy with washes of synths and other sound effects.  There’s no heavy bass, it’s just up to Palaceer Lazaro to keep the flow.

There’s an 80 second intro in which Palaceer Lazaro introduces the band and talks about their sacred study, safe from the “Colluding Oligarchs.”

The first proper song “Colluding Oligarchs”says that “sacred spaces still exist / safe from colluding oligarchs.”  Theirs almost glitchy (but pretty) synth melodies (which I think Palaceer Lazaro triggered before he started rapping).  His partner Tendai Maraire plays a hand drum and congas (as well as some synth triggers).  And all the while he is singing echoed backing vocals.  Meanwhile, Otis Calvin plays an intertwining, slow, almost improved bass line.

For “They Come In Gold” there is no bass.  He says “this one we wrote to our phones.”  There’s a weird repeating melody that sounds like  snippet of vocals. Once again there’s lot of percussion–shakers, cymbals etc.  Half way through, he puts a filter on his voice to slow it down (a cool spacey effect) and then speeds it back up.

“Shine A Light” includes some squeaky synths and Palaceer Lazaro singing into a different mic.  When the music starts formally, the melody is a looped sample from Dee Dee Sharp’s 1965 song “I Really Love You.”  The bass is back playing some simple but groovy lines.  That second mic is connected to a higher-pitched echoed setting when he sings shine a light on the fake.

[READ: March 15, 2017] Punch

I don’t know much about Pablo Boffelli aside from that he is an Argentinian artist–he creates music as well as visual arts.

This book is a collection of line drawings (which remind me a lot of things that I draw when I am doodling).

Since the book is published in Spanish, with no English information anywhere (it’s not even on Goodreads), I couldn’t get a lot of information about it.  So from the publisher’s website I got (in translation):

In the PUNCH world, space is a character that unfolds and unfolds in millions of scenes. Cynicism and the absurd coexist with hints of synthetic humor.

Punch is the book drawn by Feli. His imprudent stroke runs through the pages building a city in which everything can happen. In the Punch world, space becomes a character that unfolds and unfolds in millions of possibilities. The urban landscape eats everything, the exteriors become interior and the fantasies materialize in the most unforeseen forms. The cynicism and the absurd coexist with hints of humor: the joke to discover for that spectator who contemplates in a disinterested way.

Punch is tender and corrosive, is infinite and minimal. It reverses the logic of physics and plays with the scale: stacked things, types or giant landscapes, a springboard that does not point to the pool, soccer balls in a refrigerator, humans without head, debauchery and micro-obsession. Put another way: this book is crazy. We recommend looking with a magnifying glass.

(more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICSFall Nationals The Horseshoe Tavern Toronto, ON. Night 7 of 13 (November 16, 2003).

 This was the all ages Sunday afternoon 7th show of the Rheostatics 13 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe.  Rheostatics Live has recordings of nights 1, 3, 4, 5 and 7.

This is the final concert available on Rheostatics Live for the 2013 Fall Nationals.  It was an all-ages show and as such was a bit more delicate than some of the other shows.

Hip Lingo opened the night. And then the band begins with a sweet mostly acoustic version of “Song of the Garden.”  Then Tim says, “This song “Loving Arms” was written by Dot, our good friend.

Once again, during “Aliens,” at the “distraction” line, someone starts playing the guitar melody from “When Winter Comes” and it does serve as a kind of distraction–they flub the song a bit.   Later, in the quiet part Tim starts playing the melody for “Artenings Made of Gold” on the bass.

“Tarleks” is described as the second in the Alien trilogy.  Mike asks if Martin has another yet to come.  Martin says, “I got a pack of em.”  They miss the segue to the middle but just play one more measure and catch up.

Tim says “we brought some spongy earplugs down if anyone needs them.”  (They’re so nice).

Dave has a question for the kids in the audience.  “Ozzy Osbourne funny or scary?”  Kids:  funny.  Martin:  funny and sad.  Dave says this is a song about the twilight of Ozzy’s career (Martin: and his awareness).

“King of the Past” is a quieter version.  You can really hear Martin doing great backing vocals.

They acknowledge Maureen at the craft table–it’s make your own DVD night.  Martin: She’ll give you a dirty look ’cause shes really mean.

A pretty “Northern Wish” and then a gentle “PIN.”  After the song, Martin plays the riff to PIN one more time.  Mike says: always time to practice.  And then a lovely “Mumbletypeg.”

There’s some joking and then someone says, “By the end of this run we hope to have beautifully constructed spice rack. There’s one shot of Mike on the DVD where mike looks like this.  We call it building the spice rack.  When you can’t come up with any more intense ideas at the end of a song so you just end up pounding the wall.”

This is a song about a girl.  “Claire.”  Was she a girl or a hallucination?  Or was she a really fast car?

For “Take Me In Your Hand,” it’s Mike and Martin singing gently with acoustic guitar.

During a pause Dave says, in case anyone is interested, Edmonton is beating Montreal 24-21 in the 3rd quarter of the Grey Cup.  Good game, jeez, we should get this over with.  Just kidding.  Strangely here’s a song about the CFL [“Palomar”].  We’re trying to get Tim to stop writing songs about football but he can’t.  It’s like a virus with him.  It’s quiet with some great backing vocals especially at the end.

“Here’s a song about nutrition.  More bands should write about nutrition.  A song about nutrition with a political sensibility.”  They start “Brea, Meat, Peas and Rice.”  Dave gets excited: “Really.  A clapping crowd, eh?”

He says Hi to his daughter Cecilia and then says “My dad is here.  Do you wanna watch the Grey Cup?  It’s on in the dressing room.”  Mike says, “Supportive father, extra supportive son.”

Before the next song, Martin says, “This is the actual Fender Strat that Jimi Hendrix ate at Mariposa.  See there’s the bandage.   He used to put pastrami in his sweatband so he could get nourishment while he was playing.”  It’s a beautiful “Here Comes the Image” with a special thanks to MPW on keys.

“Little Bird” starts very quietly with percussion in the form of “shhs” but it gets big by the middle.

Introducing “Stolen Car,” Martin says, “This is a song about stealing really expensive stuff… or dreaming about stealing it.”
Dave: “Sort of like The Bob Newhart show.  It was all a dream.”
Martin: “Really? the last Bob Newhart?  How old is Bob Newhart?  He must be like 95 [he was 74!].  He’s been going forever.  He looks the same.  He was on the TV.”
Dave: “Wow he’s going places if he’s on that thing.  Although I don’t think it will supplant the radio.”

Then Dave tells a story about his friend who had two interesting concepts:

what if the telephone followed the internet and people thought wow I can finally actually talk to someone!

But even better: what if when you farted it was colored.  It would make life way more interesting–Stand at the top of the CN tower and watch all the colors.  At night the CN Tower would be gorgeous.”

Martin says, “This is a very serious song.”
Dave: “It wouldn’t be very serious if you did it in Donald Duck voice.  It would have a whole new feel.”
Martin: “I can’t do Donald Duck voice.”
Dave: “Ala George Jones.  He talked in Donald Duck voice for a year.  My friend saw him play in the States and he did five songs in Donald Duck voice and that was it.  And they loved it.”
Martin: “Was he bitter or is he really funny?”
Dave: “I think he just liked the voice.”
Martin: “That’s a pretty high commitment.”

Even though the song is serious, when he sings he build a fence for all his friends, he throws in “all two of them.”

During the encore, Dave thanks everyone under 18 who came out.

Then comes “Harvest,” sung by Dave’s daughter or son (it sounds like he says Hi Sessi.  She/he is adorable (four/six years old depending).  She says “Harvest by Neil Young.”  How’s it feel to be onstage?  Good.  She does a really good job.  And then it’s over and she says over and over “I wanna do it again, Can I?”  he starts crying a bit, Dave says, “We’ll do one next year a longer one next year.  Your father needs to sing some now.”  “NO!”

They play a boppy version of “Home Again,” in which Martin mutters something about “living in the ass of an uncaring god.”  And they end with a romping version of “Legal Age Life at Variety Store”

[READ: February 10, 2017] Self-Control 

Did I pick up this book by Stig Sæterbakken because his name is Stig and his last name has a character I can’t pronounce?  Yes.  But also because I had heard about Stig from Karl Ove, my favorite Norwegian writer.  He had raved about Stig (and is blurbed on this book).

This book is evidently the second book in the “S” trilogy.  Although as I understand it they are only loosely connected–same characters but the stories aren’t directly sequential.

Andreas Feldt is a conflicted man–primarily internally conflicted.  I’m not sure if book one tells us about this, but as this book opens we learn that Andreas hasn’t seen his adult daughters in many years–talked to one of them, but not seen her.  He is meeting her for lunch.

The talk is awkward, certainly, and eventually he blurts out “Your mother and I are getting a divorce.”  Her reaction is fairly flat.  And later we learn that it is not even true–he just said it. (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: August 2017] Adventures with Waffles

I saw this book in the library and the title sounded interesting. The blurb on the back when enticing as well, so I grabbed it for our family road trip.

I had no idea that the book was a translation of a Norwegian story (Vafflehjarte) nor that it had already been translated into English as Waffle Hearts (a much more accurate, and frankly much more satisfying title).  I gather from a little research that Waffle Hearts is a British translation and Adventures with Waffles is an American one (although they both have the same translator, Guy Puzey).

The story is about Trille and Lena, two kids who live next door to each other in the village of Mathildawick Cove in Norway.  Their village is small and there are only 9 kids in their grade.  Lena is the only girl. The bully Kai-Tommy wishes she weren’t in their class.  But Trille feels that Lena is his best friend (he hopes it is reciprocated, but is unsure).  She is wild, she is spontaneous, she is dangerous.  And she is a lot of fun. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK
: BATHS-Tiny Desk Concert 300 (September 4, 2013).

I was unfamiliar with Baths and I am impressed by their busy-ness in this set.  There are only two guys playing, both play with various computer gadgets and then switch to keyboards and guitars.  They layer more and more music on this fairly dancey and very electronic sound.

Baths, a.k.a. Will Wiesenfeld, plays mysterious and textured electronic music. When Wiesenfeld came to the Tiny Desk, I expected contemplative tones and a laid-back performance; he does, after all, call his project Baths. But what sets him apart from the vast majority of like-minded performers is that his music doesn’t get buried behind the buttons or lost in a hypnotic glaze.

Wiesenfeld is an extrovert live, and at the Tiny Desk, he sounds vibrant and compelling as he performs songs from this year’s Obsidian. His partner Morgan Greenwood, an accomplished music-maker in his own right, keeps the music dense but frees up Wiesenfeld to sing with few distractions; there’s a mind-meld between the two that’s undeniable. They’re not accustomed to playing in the light of day, but they enchant in this perfect introduction to their work.

Wisenfeld’s vocals are a lot of wordless sounds (ba ba ba, na na na) that get looped and mixed around.  He sings in a rather high register, especially when making the looped sounds.

“Miasma Sky” builds with layers upon layers of sounds and vocals.  The sounds are manipulated in great ways with those little knobs and sliders. And just as you think it’s going to end with a series of delicate synth and guitar notes, he begins looping them which create the building blocks for the rest of the song.   It’s primarily keyboards and glitchy drums until the end.

“Phaedra” begins with some heavy drums and them playing around with all their gadgets.  This is a fast, pumping, dancing song.  Greenwood sings backing vocals in an equally high register.

“Ocean Death” has deep thumping drums and an opening with lots of na na nas and la la las in a textually rich soundscape.  It all fades down o just drums before building back up again.

[READ: July 9, 2016] Ruins

Seven years ago I read a book called Diario de Oaxaca, a sketchbook by Peter Kuper that I really enjoyed.  When I grabbed this book of the shelf the other day I didn’t realize it was the same guy.  But I can see that that sketchbook informed this excellent graphic novel.

The Diario covered his two-year stay in Oaxaca where he drew a lot, studied insects (and saw the monarch butterflies) and experienced both chaos and contentment.

This fictionalized account of the story places two characters into a situation that sounds similar to what he experienced, but with enough difference to keep it purely fictional. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LAURA MVULA-Tiny Desk Concert #284 (July 1, 2013).

I don’t know Mvula’s music (I know her because her name is unmistakable and I feel surprised that her debut came out only 4 years ago).  The blurb talks about her big powerhouse soulful pop.  But that is not in evidence here at all.  As they say:

with the help of a small string section, she forgoes some of her flashier songs (“Like the Morning Dew,” “Green Garden”) in favor of Sing to the Moon‘s most brooding ballads.

“Father, Father” is almost entirely her singing and playing a very spare keyboard–with just a few seconds of string help near the end.  Her voice is quite lovely in what is practically an a cappella setting.

She introduces the second song by saying: “If we had the bigger band we’d do the more upbeat things.  I usually write in six-part harmony.  But it’s just the three of us so I’m going to do another more intimate one called ‘Diamonds.'”  There’s more strings on this song, which add to the song (the keyboard is quite thin, I fear).

The set ends with “She,” a song with a bit more complex keyboard parts which I rather like.  This song is my favorite, probably because it sounds the fullest.

The whole set is a little too mellow for my tastes, but I am curious to hear what her big poppy six-part-harmony songs sound like!

[READ: April 21, 2016] The Right Here Right Now Thing

I found this graphic novel at work. What was so funny about it is that the title is in English but the publisher is German.  I flipped through the book and saw the English dialogue so I decided to read it.  Imagine my surprise then that the first few and the last few pages are in German!

Google Translate is a good thing. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do as well with idiom and vulgar phrases, and there are a few in this book.  But I got the gist.

Plus, quite a lot of it is wordless, too.

The story begins with hands putting drugs (I assume cocaine and pot from later sections) into a condom.  And then we see our heroine on the toilet…doing something.  Her plane ticket says Frankfurt-Krakau.  She says goodbye to the guy lying in bed and she heads to the airport. (more…)

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