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Archive for the ‘Futility’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICSNorthlands Coliseum Edmonton AB (November 12 1996).

Rheostatics opened for The Tragically Hip in Fall 1996.  Some of the shows were online already, but in 2018, Rheostatics Live added about ten more shows.

This is the 4th night of the 24 date Canadian Tour opening for The Tragically Hip on their Trouble At The Henhouse Tour.

For this show their opening music is the Wizard of Oz’s Munchkins singing “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead.”  Martin follows with some lovely noodling that segues into a lovely “Song of Flight.”  The band sounds a little bit sloppy, surprisingly.

The song segues into “California Dreamline” and the crowd is appropriately responsive.  “All the Same Eyes” follows, sung by Tim in what seems like a casual way.

“Fat” sounds especially great.  Martin starts the song asking “What are you saying, who are you talking to?”  I wonder if it was directed at someone.  The band sound great and everyone seems really into the “robot/zombie” part.

As the song ends, Dave notes, “There’s a bit of banging going on over there but it was in time to the next song.  If you could do that four times….  Not whooing, banging.  Rumor has it that there’s a hockey team that plays out of this rink.  We’re from Toronto and in the 1980s the Leafs sucked and the Oilers were winning cup after cup and we see the banners and it motivates us.  Tim: and it motivates us to move to Edmonton–for the summer only, of course.

There’s more Tim as he says that “Bad Time to Be Poor,” was a true story.  Then its more Tim with “Claire.”  Martin does some great Neil Young sounding solos in the introduction.  The song sounds great with some cool ripping solos from Martin.

“Dope Fiends and Booze Hounds” always sounds great.  This one has a pretty intro and a small stumble before they rock out.  There’s great backing vocals here.  Martin does a weird ending for the “dark side of the moon” part–it’s more growling and he doesn’t quite hit the awesome high note at the end.

“Feed Yourself” is dedicated to The Tragically Hip.”  Tim: “You can all go get a coffee of something.”  The opening is utterly chaotic in a not so great way.  But they settle down and really rip through the song.  Tim seems to be mucking about near the end.  Dave does go dark and creepy with the end part but in a much less dramatic way than he would if they were the main band.  They absolutely destroy at the end and the crowd is very responsive.  What a fantastic opening set.

[READ: March 4, 2019] The Adventure Zone 1

I loved this book.  It is a graphic novel realization of a Dungeons & Dragons campaign.  It is based on a podcast called The Adventure Zone.  The podcast is fun and is a real scenario of friends (in this case brothers) playing a new game of D&D (with new characters).  The podcast is pretty funny if  a little unedited.

The graphic novel is certainly edited.  It’s fun to have a visual accompaniment and the illustrations by Carey Pietsch are terrific with a wonderful comic-fantasy feel. .  If you wanted to hear the comparison from podcast to book, Page 18 syncs up to minute 100:00 in chapter 1 podcast.

But I have one MAJOR complaint.  Why is there so much cursing?  I get that this is a real adventure and that is literally the way people talk when the play the game.  But it is really off putting in this book.  Especially in the beginning when we don’t know these characters well.  Reading them cursing is not nearly as enjoyable as hearing them cursing in the podcast.

PLUS, this book, aside from the voluminous amount of cursing, would be suitable for just about all ages.  The adventure is PG (with maybe a couple of gentle tweaks) and the violence is comedic.  But the point is that this book would be such a great introduction to Dungeons and Dragons to any age and it’s a shame that they blew it.  (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: DARLINGSIDE-EP1 (2010).

It’s amazing in retrospect how bland the first Darlingside song on their first EP is.

Darligside is a unique band, with gorgeous harmonies and unexpected instrumentation.  Their songs are gorgeous.

But this album is very different.  The first main difference is that there is a drummer–a real drummer named Sam Kapala.  Kapala is quite good, but wow does that change the entire tone of a Darlingside song.  Second, the band doesn’t sing everything in harmony.  Rather, there is one main singer (I think David) with the other guys singing fairly standard backing vocals.

The whole Ep has a kind of raspy-voiced-folk rock exploration feel.  The first song “Good Song” still has some mandolin, but only sparsely and the chorus melody sounds so much like another song or songs that I can’t get past it

“Surround” has a bit more of that Darlingside feel–the music is a bit more esoteric.  But the vocals are the same–that raspy-voiced lead singer.

But each song gets more interesting.  “Malea” has more of that cool violin and some really good drumming.  There’s definitely flashes of greatness on this EP, including in this song–although they need to bring in some of that cool vocal stuff.

“Catbird Seat” has some lovely violin and great whispered vocals.

“All That Wrong” starts almost a capella with some quiet guitar. It builds slowly until the middle section with the fast guitar and mandolin and the squeaky violin solo which is awesome.

“In the Morning” ends the disc with a quiet vocal melody but it eventually adds more singers and starts to sound more and more like the Darlingside we know.  In part because the drumming is left out almost entirely.  It feels like with three more songs they’d be on the verge of creating Birds Say.  But not yet.

[READ: January 22, 2018] “If Told Correctly”

I think the reason for William’s constantly publication is that it is so easy to fit at least one, or even more of them into a space in a magazine.  Got a small column to fill?  Grab 7 Williams stories.

This is a collection of five such stories

None of This Would Have Been Remotely Feasible
This story begin with the narrator admitting that she is smart and likes jokes.  So this is suitable for certain people.  The police found her in a pile of snow saying she didn’t want to live anymore.  Her mother saved her life. “This morning I was walking toward a tree… A woman was crying Melba! Melba!”  Perhaps it is a dog, that’s what we’re led to believe.  The last sentence is just a random jumble of words: “After a pause I looked into the world but I never found those.”  What? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKNILÜFER YANYA-“Baby Luv” NPR’S SOUTH X LULLABY (April 6, 2018). 

Sometimes I wonder if I should automatically know a featured artist. So it’s comforting when you find out that an artist is “relatively new” like Nilüfer Yanya.

For our final lullaby recording during South by Southwest 2018, we meet the London-based singer Nilüfer Yanya for her performance in the memory-filled world of Uncommon Objects. It’s a shop in Austin, Texas dedicated to sentimental curiosities of a world gone by. With that in mind, the relatively new musician with a bright future tackles a tune about something old and familiar: fond memories overwhelmed by the pain of love gone wrong.

“Baby Luv” can be found on Nilüfer Yanya’s 2018 release Do You Like Pain?. The EP’s title is a line she repeats multiple times on “Baby Luv,” while her choppy guitar punctuates a weary, clock-like rhythm. That ticking beat is then amplified by the saxophone of her bandmate, Jazzi Bobbi while a camera pans a literary world of books that all seem blood-red. Objects once shiny and proud are worn and somewhat torn, with a future as uncertain as the love in this song.

The song is a simple up and down melody with her startlingly staccato singing style–in which words are somewhat audible but not always clear.  Like the strange, repeated chant of gain again again.

I love that Jazzi Bobbi is visible, but how on first viewing, you gloss over her as she sort of blends in with the curios.  It’s when her sax comes in that you realize she’s there.  In fact it’s her sax that is the most compelling part of this song.  It’s the strangely amorphous notes that seems to burst from nowhere that are more compelling that the repeated guitar.

[READ: April 5, 2018] “The State of Nature”

I enjoyed Bordas’ previous story quite a lot.  I loved how it was structured and the surprising twists it had.

This one was also enjoyable but for different reasons.  It opens with the narrator admitting to us that she had slept through a burglary.  A cop asked if she was unemployed since she was napping on Thursday afternoon.

She tells them that she is an ophthalmologist  with a varied schedule who can sleep through just about anything.

A varied assortment of things were stolen–a rug, some jewelry and an optometrist case.  It was quite old and has sentimental value (she told the cops).  An average person wouldn’t have thought much of it but it could have fetched about $1,200.

When she returned to her apartment her cat, Catapult, seemed to be vocally distressed.  She believes the cat is sad because her favorite napping place is now gone: “You could have summoned some of that bitchiness earlier, when they came to steal your bed.” (more…)

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 SOUNDTRACK: RED BARAAT-Chaal Baby (2010).

Red Baraat is one of the few bands to play two Tiny Desk Concerts. I’ve also had the fun experience of seeing them live.

The band was founded by dhol player Sunny Jain as a way to bring Bangrha music to Brooklyn.  The band speaks to many disciplines and plays a wonderful mash up of styles.  So while the foundation is bangrha music, there’s elements of funk, go-go, Afro-Cuban, Brazilian, and jazz–all designed as one big party.

This debut album features the dhol, soprano and tenor sax, trumpets, trombones, sousaphone and drums and percussion.

To my ear the sousaphone is the grounding instrument–often standing out as the bass while the rest of the brass is playing melody or soloing.  And yes, sometimes the sousaphone gets a solo or two as well.

I love the vocal interjections–whether nonsense or actual words I can’t tell, but they are often fast and fun–good punctuation to the melody.  And the band knows melody.  The main riff of “Tunak Tunak Tun” is a blast.  And the vocal phrases are there to humanize the party.  I didn’t realize that this was a cover of Bhangra pop singer Daler Mehndi’s song of the same name, but that explains the catchiness.

In fact there are several covers on the album.  “Hey Jamalo” (a reworking of Malkit Singh’s popular “Hey Jamalo Tootak Tootak Tootiyan”) opens with a rousing introduction with a solo from dhol.  I rather wish there was more obvious dhol playing (which is so much fun to watch live) but it blends in pretty perfectly with the rest of the music and fits perfectly with the percussion solo in the middle of this song.

They play three Bollywood soundtrack hits “Dum Maro Dum,” “Samaro Mantra,” and “Mehndi Laga Ke Rakhna.” “Dum Maro Dum” has some cool percussion sounds an a real jazz feel–I love the way they stretch out the notes in the middle.

The word Baraat (Hindi: बरात) (Urdu: برات‬‎) means a groom’s wedding procession in North India, West India and Pakistan.  Unsurprisingly, they play two covers of traditional Indian wedding songs “Punjabi Wedding Song (Balle Balle),” which has some fun stop and start melodies and a real marching band kind of vibe and “Aaj Mere Yaar Ki Shaadi Hai” which opens with some dramatic percussion before settling into some very pretty processional music.

But it’s not all raucous party music.  “Arcana” slows things down with a cool riff or two and nice accompaniment.

However, other songs like “Drum and Brass,” escape easy categorization with a clarinet reminiscent of Eastern Europe combined with percussion and melodies from Western Asia.

The title song “Chaal Baby” has some great chanting and dramatic horns moments which I saw described as “the Dirty Dozen Brass Band gone Bollywood” or belonging at a Punjabi football halftime show.

Speaking of marching band, there are a few moments on this album that felt kind of like a marching band to me.  “Mehndi Laga Ke Rakhna” was an example of a marching band vibe.  That kind of sound is hard to avoid (if indeed they are trying to) with that kind of instrumentation, although perhaps that is the inevitable comparison to processional music. My experience is that it works better live than on record.

But songs like the original “Baraat to Nowhere,” showcase a great original melody and some fun soloing.  Nearly every song features a solo by one or more members of the band allowing everyone to show his chops.  And back to that sousaphone–I’ve never heard anyone make sounds like that from an instrument before.  Great stuff.

“Samaro Mantra” the Bollywood song, ends the album on almost a down note.  The melody is somber, the drums are martial.  It’s kind of an odd choice for an otherwise upbeat and celebratory album.  But maybe it works as a calm down after an exiting wedding–time to go home everybody, party’s over.

Sunny Jain – dhol / drumset / percussion ; Rohin Khemani – tavil / doumbek ; Tomas Fujiwara – drumset ; Arun Luthra – soprano sax ; Mike Bomwell – tenor sax ; Sonny Singh – trumpet ; MiWi La Lupa – bass trumpet ; Smoota – trombone ; John Altieri – sousaphone

[READ: January 14, 2018] “Pieces”

I rather enjoyed Hye-Young Pyun’s previous story and was intrigued to read another one.  This one was translated by Sora Kim-Russell.

The previous one was thoughtful and disturbing and so is this one.

In this story, which is surprisingly unspecific about the characters, a man’s wife went missing a month earlier.  She slipped off off of a gorge and was presumed drowned.

He has just gotten a call from the police that a body part has been found and they would like him to identify it.  The part that was found was a right leg. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JULIEN BAKER-Tiny Desk Concert #690 (January 10, 2018).

Julien Baker joins a handful of artists who have now made a second appearance at a Tiny Desk Concert.  (If they start inviting artists back regularly, they’ll never get ANY work done at the NPR offices).

I was quite enamored with Baker when I watched her first Tiny Desk Concert.  And I was totally smitten with her when I saw her open for The Decemberists.

Julien plays three songs here.  I’m intrigued that in the blurb Bob says “I reached out to ask if she would be willing to do something different this time around.”

It makes it sound as if she’s going to do some kind of dance/electronica show.  But I guess the difference is that last time, she just played electric guitar and this time she mixes up instrumentation and adds a violinist.

The first two songs, “Hurt Less” and “Even,” were accompanied by Camille Faulkner, with Julien on piano for the opening tune and acoustic guitar on the second.

If Julien Baker sounds delicate with just her electric guitar, she’s twice as delicate on piano.  But her voice sounds exquisite–powerful, honest and a little raspy, adding a slight edge.

I love seeing her sticker-covered acoustic guitar as she sings on “Even”:

Putting my fist through the plaster in the bathroom of a Motel 6 / I must have pictured it all a thousand times / I swear to God I think I’m gonna die / I know you were right / I can’t be fixed, so help me

She tends to play her guitar a little louder than the piano, so this one is a bit more dynamic.  The violin adds some aching sounds over the top.

I love that she plays each song in a very different style:

For the final song, Julien put together an arrangement of “Appointments” that begins on electric guitar, which then was looped as a backdrop to her on piano and voice.

It’s always fun watching someone loop guitar melodies.  And I like that she continues to loop long after it seems like the looping is done.  This allows for some of her gorgeous ringing chords.  They continue to ring out as she plays the piano.  It’s even cooler that she can stop parts of the guitar looping while she is completing the song.

All along her voice, which seems so delicate when she starts proves to be really powerful, especially during “Appointments” when she builds to a powerful high.    When I saw her live, she held a really long note that was quite impressive.  Don’t be fooled by the quietness of her music, Julien Baker rocks.

[READ: October 27,2017] Threads of Blue

This is the sequel to Beautiful Blue World, a book I really enjoyed.

In the first book, Mathilde’s country of Sofarende was being attacked by Tyssia.  She was sent to a special location to work on the war effort–they needed precocious children and she was picked for her empathy.  As the book ended, Mathilde followed her empathy and, while their encampment was under siege, released a teenaged prisoner of war because she felt that he was a good person who was just caught up in the war.

This act caused her to leave her group (and her best friend Megs) and to miss the conveyance to safety.

As this book opens, Mathilde wakes up on a boat that is bringing her to the country of Eilean.  She has secret documents and an order to be secretive.

The book picks up right where the previous one left off (I could have used a slight refresher, honestly). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: VOIRVOIR-The Free-P (2016).

I got this Free Ep at a VoirVoir (not Voir Voir) show in Bethlehem.  This EP contains four songs.

Two of them are new and two are re-recordings of songs from their debut album.

“Quit It All” is a bit poppier than their debut album.  The 90s synth is a nice touch to this song which, make no mistake, still rocks.   The middle noise section (skronking guitar solo and great drums) is a highlight as are the catchy verses.  The band even submitted a video for the Tiny Desk Contest (I had no idea).

“Sides” is perhaps one of the best catchy alt rock songs I’ve heard in years and I am bummed that they didn’t get recognized for it.  It’s got a great 90s alt-rock sound and wonderful harmonies in the backing vocals.  There’s a video for this song as well.  You can also stream the song on bandcamp.

The other two songs, “Stupid for Now” and “There are No Good Goodbyes” were recorded at WDIY (Lehigh Valley’s Community NPR Station) in a stripped down format.  You can stream the songs here.  It’s interesting to hear them without the fuzz and drums.  The songs are solid and work very well although I do like the originals better.  The show also includes an interview with the three members who play the stripped down show.  The DJ asks their influences and while main singer guitarist Matt Molchany demurs,  April Smith says Built to Spill) and Josh Maskornick says Primus and Superchunk.

And if you can’t get enough (since they haven’t released that much) here’s a live show from Shards.

[READ: January 10, 2016 & January 10, 2018] Goldfish Memory

For some reason, I read this book back in 2016 and then didn’t post about it–I felt like I needed to read it again, and so I waited almost exactly two years and re-read it and enjoyed it even more this second time.  Almost like actual goldfish memory.

The back of this book made the stories sound really compelling:  “what does it mean to have a connection with someone? This is the question these brilliant short stories try to answer.”  The note said that this was the first translation of Monique Schwitter’s form-breaking work.  The translation was by Eluned Gramich.

I’m not sure how form-breaking these stories are, but they are certainly interesting.  They remind me in some ways of Julie Hecht–a narrator who is connected to people but very distantly.  But while Hecht’s narrators are critical and dismissive of everyone, Schwitter’s narrators just seem to be incapable of connecting properly.  You can feel the longing in the distance between them.  I also like how these missed connections cover all kinds of relationships–familial, sexual, friendship, professional, even passing acquaintances.

Few of the characters seem to be able to tell anyone else how they really feel–even when they are dying.  There is sadness at loss, but a kind of c’est la vie about it as well.  And all along, Schwitter’s writing is consistently excellent and the stories are really enjoyable. (more…)

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