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Archive for the ‘Funny (ha ha)’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: DEBO BAND-“Ney Ney Weleba” (Field Recordings, May 16, 2012).

This is yet another Field Recording [Debo Band: Ethiopian Funk On A Muggy Afternoon] filmed during SXSW at the patio of Joe’s Crab Shack.

I was not familiar with Debo Band.  They are led by Ethiopian-American saxophonist Danny Mekonnen and fronted by magnetic singer Bruck Tesfaye.  The group infuses its dance-friendly songs with the Ethiopian pop and funk music of the 1960s and ’70s.

Compared to a dark club full of dancing fans, a muggy Austin afternoon with the sun peeking out over our isolated spot at Joe’s Crab Shack isn’t the ideal setting for a Debo Band performance. But once the group began digging into “Ney Ney Weleba” — a classic song by Alemayehu Eshete — it didn’t take long to get caught up in Debo Band’s deep, infectious groove.

This is a bizarre song to write about because there are just so many elements and so many things going on.  Lead accordion, violin, horns and lyrics in Amharic.  But with guitar, bass and drums and a rocking beat.

This vibrant 11-member group collects its influences like trading cards: It finds common ground in jazz, classic soul, psychedelic rock and New Orleans party bands, playing with song forms, manipulating rhythms and finding space for improvisation.

Plus, the fact that the band is signed to Sub Pop — a label more known for indie-rock and pop — represents something of a statement. Debo Band is a rock group first and foremost, and one that can bring joyful intensity to listeners who might not otherwise naturally gravitate to this music. It’s a winning cross-cultural stew of sounds that grabs you instantly, and ought to have you bobbing along and sweaty in no time.

The whole song lurches along with a really fun beat, and then there’s a trumpet solo and a very psychedelic echoing guitar solo.  It ends with a rocking jam from the two saxes and then a re-visitation of the opening.

I have no idea what the song is about but I like it.

[READ: November 2008] “It All Gets Quite Tricky”

I thought I had read everything that David Foster Wallace had published in Harper’s but as I was going through back issues, I found this little thing.  It’s basically correspondence between Wallace and some students.

These letters were written about in the David Foster Wallace Reader.

Anne Fadiman’s Afterword about the State Fair (which these letters reference) in the book is my favorite because she talks about using the essay in her classes. She focuses on just one section (the one about food) and asks them to really parse out its structure and content.  She also says that one student got to write to DFW each semester and that he would answer their questions for him.  His letters always ended with, “Tally Ho, David Wallace.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ERIC HARLAND AND AVISHAI COHEN-“Scrap Metal Improv” (Field Recordings, February 28, 2012).

This Field Recording [Eric Harland And Avishai Cohen: Scrap Metal Improv] is set behind the scenes at the 2011 Newport Jazz Festival.

Eric Harland is the sort of drummer who can conjure the music out of just about anything. And when you are this sort of drummer, you get asked to play with a lot of different musicians. When he joined us for this field recording, Harland was in the middle of playing three sets with three different bands in under five hours at the Festival.

One of those gigs was with the trumpeter Avishai Cohen and his band Triveni. Right after they finished with their set, we absconded with both trumpeter and drummer into an abandoned quadrant of Fort Adams State Park for a little experiment. Watch as Harland squats and annexes a rusty piece of scrap metal for a makeshift ride cymbal. The following improvisation seems to just fall into place.

This is an unusual field recording because, indeed, as it opens Harland is banging on pieces of metal (they sound pretty good too).  He plays for a bout a minute and then Avishai comes over and plays a two-minute trumpet improv around what Harland is doing.  It’s pretty need and a good example that you can make music anywhere.

[READ: January 22, 2018] “How Beautiful the Mountain”

This is (surprise) a strange story–one of those where the narrator just seems to be having a great old time being weird and rambling.  Where a descriptive paragraph just turns insane.

After a nice descriptive paragraph about a country it gets a bit, questionable: You could perhaps say this country has the smoothness and the symmetry of the inside of a much used mouth. I am the suckhole, the chewing and the cud.”

After this statement, “During the twentieth century there arose in some peripheral parts of the globe an obsession with democracy and human rights. Don’t bother to read the rest, it is of no importance.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BAUHAUS-“Bela Lugosi’s Dead” (1979).

This was Bauhaus’ first single–a nine minute ode to being undead.  It’s considered the foundation of Goth music.

“Bela Lugosi’s Dead” starts with noises and feedback–echoing guitar scratches and atmospherics.

After about a minute and a half the simple three note bass line begins–slow and menacing.

Another minute later the vocals begin–Peter Murphy’s low voice reciting the lyrics.

White on white translucent black capes
Back on the rack
Bela Lugosi’s dead
The bats have left the bell tower
The victims have been bled
Red velvet lines the black box
Bela Lugosi’s dead
Undead undead undead

The guitars are primarily high notes as the chords change and for a brief moment in the chorus, the three-note melody goes up in stead of down.

The remainder of the lyrics:

The virginal brides file past his tomb
Strewn with time’s dead flowers
Bereft in deathly bloom
Alone in a darkened room
The count
Bela Lugosi’s dead
Undead undead undead

Around five-minutes the song quiets down to just drums and echoing scratched guitars.  Around seven minutes, Murphy starts wailing “Bela’s undead.”  The last minute or so returns to the beginning with echoed guitars sounds and scratches.

Lo-fi creepiness.

[READ: October 29, 2018] “Uncle Tuggs”

Just in time for Halloween, from the people who brought me The Short Story Advent Calendar and The Ghost Box. comes Ghost Box II.

This is once again a nifty little box (with a magnetic opening and a ribbon) which contains 11 stories for Halloween.  It is lovingly described thusly:

The Ghost Box returns, like a mummy or a batman, to once again make your pupils dilate and the hair on your arms stand straight up—it’s another collection of individually bound scary stories, edited and introduced by comedian and spooky specialist Patton Oswalt.

There is no explicit “order” to these books; however, Patton Oswalt will be reviewing a book a day on his Facebook page.

Much respect to Oswalt, but I will not be following his order.  So there. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MUDHONEY-“Halloween” (1988).

Mudhoney recorded a cover of Sonic Youth’s “Halloween” just two years after the original was released.

Mudhoney, a deliberately noisy and abrasive band recorded a deliberately noisy and abrasive version of this song.  And yet at the same time, it doesn’t hold a candle to Sonic Youth;s version for deliberate noise and chaos.

On the other hand, in many respects the Mudhoney version is better.  It feels more like a “real song” with the guitar, bass and drums all playing along fairly conventionally.  It follows the same musical patterns as the original, with that same cool riff, but it just feels…more.

Mark Arm sing/speaks the lyrics more aggressively and less sensuously than Kim Gordon did.  In some way it helps to understand the original song a little more, as if they translated it from Sonic Youth-land into a somewhat more mainstream version.  Although it is hardly mainstream what with the noise and fuzz, the cursing and the fact that it lasts 6 minutes.

It feels like Mark emphasizes these lyrics more than the others although it may just be that the songs builds more naturally to them:

And you’re fucking me
Yeah, you’re fucking with me
You’re fucking with me
As you slither up, slither up to me
Your lips are slipping, twisting up my insides
Sing along and just a swinging man
Singing your song
Now I don’t know what you want
But you’re looking at me
And you’re falling on the ground
And you’re twisting around
Fucking with my, my mind
And I don’t know what’s going on

Happy Halloween

[READ: October 24, 2018] “From A to Z, in the Chocolate Alphabet”

Just in time for Halloween, from the people who brought me The Short Story Advent Calendar and The Ghost Box. comes Ghost Box II.

This is once again a nifty little box (with a magnetic opening and a ribbon) which contains 11 stories for Halloween.  It is lovingly described thusly:

The Ghost Box returns, like a mummy or a batman, to once again make your pupils dilate and the hair on your arms stand straight up—it’s another collection of individually bound scary stories, edited and introduced by comedian and spooky specialist Patton Oswalt.

There is no explicit “order” to these books; however, Patton Oswalt will be reviewing a book a day on his Facebook page.

Much respect to Oswalt, but I will not be following his order.  So there. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE EBENE QUARTET-“Felix Mendelssohn: String Quartet No. 6 in F Minor Allegro assai” (Field Recordings, January 25, 2013).

I don’t quite understand why this Field Recording [The Ebene Quartet Powers Through Mendelssohn] sounds so great–it is rich and full with resonant bass notes.  Is it the recording or the quartet itself?

The title suggests it is the players.

The Paris-based Quatuor Ebene — the “Ebony Quartet” — has risen fast in the musical world with two separate artistic identities. In recent years, audiences have gotten to know the “other” Ebenes — the sophisticated cover band that plays everything from “Miserlou” (the Pulp Fiction theme) to jazz to “Someday My Prince Will Come” (yes, the one from Disney’s Snow White).

But when violinists Pierre Colombet and Gabriel Le Magadure, violist Mathieu Herzog and cellist Raphaël Merlin play classical music — whether Beethoven’s transcendent Op. 131 quartet or, as on their latest recording, works by brother-and-sister composers Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn — you realize the depth and beauty of vibrantly intense performances.

Felix Mendelssohn completed his String Quartet No. 6 in F Minor just two months before his own death, and very shortly after the death of his beloved sister Fanny. Even though this second movement, marked Allegro assai, is architecturally the “light” section in this piece, it’s full of dark colors, tense and moody and shaded with grey and black. The music provides rich counterpoint to the setting, the bright and spacious powerHouse Arena, a bookstore, gallery and performance space in Brooklyn’s Dumbo neighborhood.

We thought that the setting would appeal to the quartet’s double identities, given powerHouse’s signature mix of art titles and whimsical children’s selections, including a board book with a cute little piglet that clearly fascinated Raphaël to no end. And our idea worked: The shoot was bookended, so to speak, by the quartet browsing and buying. Maybe our idea worked a little too well? No matter — once the quartet got down to playing, the results were magical.

I have enjoyed Felix Mendelssohn’s music before, but this recording is outstanding.

[READ: October 20, 2017] “Strangler Bob”

I don’t enjoy prison stories.

This one is a little different, I suppose.  It concerns a guy remembering his days in prison.  He was eighteen and hadn’t been in too much trouble when his malicious mischief landed him a sentence of forty-one days.

His cellmate was an older guy, late forties, who was in the cell for doing “something juicy.”  The narrator would eventually learn that his roommate is Strangler Bob, and that his own nickname is Dink.

He befriended a guy his own age named Donald Dundun, who liked to stroll the catwalks and climb the bars spreadeagling himself against the jambs .suspended in the air. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: “This is Halloween” (The Nightmare Before Christmas) (1993).

Danny Elfman is pretty awesome at creating catchy and spooky songs.

This song, the theme from The Nightmare Before Christmas, is remarkably catchy.  I mean you hear it once and you’re singing “This is Halloween, This is Halloween!” and it leaves you feeling pretty good and excited for the holiday.

Somehow while you’re watching the movie, the creepiness is in the visuals more than the lyrics.  But divorced from the movie, the lyrics (and vocals are really creepy).

I am the one hiding under your stairs fingers like snakes and spiders in my hair.

or better yet

I am the clown with the tear-away face
Here in a flash and gone without a trace
I am the “who” when you call, “Who’s there?”
I am the wind blowing through your hair
I am the shadow on the moon at night
Filling your dreams to the brim with fright
You can do some pretty amazingly scary music when you market it as a children’s song (and maybe throw in this caveat):
That’s our job, but we’re not mean
In our town of Halloween

[READ: October 20, 2018] “How He Left the Hotel”

Just in time for Halloween, from the people who brought me The Short Story Advent Calendar and The Ghost Box. comes Ghost Box II.

This is once again a nifty little box (with a magnetic opening and a ribbon) which contains 11 stories for Halloween.  It is lovingly described thusly:

The Ghost Box returns, like a mummy or a batman, to once again make your pupils dilate and the hair on your arms stand straight up—it’s another collection of individually bound scary stories, edited and introduced by comedian and spooky specialist Patton Oswalt.

There is no explicit “order” to these books; however, Patton Oswalt will be reviewing a book a day on his Facebook page.

Much respect to Oswalt, but I will not be following his order.  So there. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: YUJA WANG-“Toccata in D minor, Op. 11” (Field Recordings, February 19, 2014).

I have never given much thought to the physical creation of a piano.  This Field Recording [On A Chilly Factory Floor, Yuja Wang’s Piano Sizzles] is set on the factory floor of Steinway & Sons.  As it opens you can see the craftsmen putting some touches on a piano, which really makes you think about how these machines are created.

This episode also introduced me to Chinese-born pianist Yuja Wang.

She is a [at the time] “27-year-old ultra-glam artist” who came to the factory in

one of her trademark dresses, significant stiletto booties and a Gucci fur stole, as well as some wrist warmers as a concession to the temperature.

The piece she played was also one I was unfamiliar with, played a piece that would chop shrinking violets to mulch: Prokofiev’s “Toccata in D minor, Op. 11.”

The blurb calls the piece “blisteringly difficult” and I totally agree.  It is nonstop notes for nearly five minutes.  Wang is up and down the keyboard, banging out notes in a nearly atonal piece (how she even remembered it much less played it is amazing).  And to see her pressing pedals in stilettos is pretty amusing too.

On a third listen, it’s not so much atonal as just very busy.  The melody is in there, it is just surrounded by so much else.  And watching the blurs that are Wang’s hands is jaw-dropping.

[READ: January 6, 2017] “Cold Little Bird”

I feel like Ben Marcus stories resist me, somewhat.  But this one was fantastic.

Martin and Rachel have two boys: a ten-year old-and a six-year-old.  As the story opens, Jonah, the ten-year-old says he doesn’t want to big hugged anymore. That he doesn’t like it.  He hopes that they will respect his decision about this.  He tells them that they can always cuddle with Lester, the six-year-old.

The parents shrug this off and think it is a phase.  Even when Jonah flatly says “I don’t love you.”

His parents tried to respect his wishes even as it went on for several weeks.  Martin was getting more and more exasperated, but Rachel seemed to be okay with it–telling him to back off and give the boy some space.

Soon enough, Jonah started playing with Lester–being very chummy and lovely with him.  And yet he did not warm up to his parents. (more…)

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