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Archive for the ‘Huh?’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: THE TALLEST MAN ON EARTH-Tiny Desk Concert #877 (September 6, 2019).

I watched the first Tiny Desk Concert from The Tallest Man on Earth about five years ago and I’ve been a fan ever since.  He looks pretty different than he did back then.  But that’s because even though I watched it five years ago,

It’s 10 years almost to the day since we published The Tallest Man On Earth’s Tiny Desk in 2009. What I remember most about that performance was the intensity of Kristian Matsson and how astonished our audience was to discover him. I think of it as one of our very first viral videos.

It wasn’t viral for me in 2009, but I did really enjoy it.

Since then I have planned to see him on two occasions.  Back in 2018 I had a ticket for him at Union Transfer, but I wound up going on a Boy Scout hike that weekend.  This year, on October 2, he was supposed to play the Met Philly, but he cancelled the entire American tour.

So, maybe in 2020, it will finally happen, especially since he doesn’t live in Sweden exclusively.

The Swedish singer now splits his time between Djurås, Sweden and Brooklyn, N.Y., and has just put out his fifth studio album titled, I Love You. It’s a Fever Dream. 

I don’t honestly recall what first attracted me to his music (his voice and guitar playing, i suspect) although this observation is fascinating:

I think Kristian Matsson’s words are more focused, more observational and more appreciative of life than in the past.

I suppose it would have been interesting if he played one song that he played ten years ago to see if he did it any differently.  But it’s probably better that he plays three new songs with C.J. Camerieri on French horn and muted trumpet.

“What I’ve Been Kicking Around” opens with his fast finger-picking–there’s really quite a lot going on in this song.  He plays this one on electric guitar  and C.J is on French horn.  His voice is gruff but inviting with a vaguely Bob Dylanesque delivery.  There’s something about the way that minimal French horn accompaniment fills in the spaces between the songs that allows him to play his complex fingering and the song still feels full.

For “I’ll Be A Sky,” he switches to acoustic guitar and C.J. plays muted trumpet.  His fingerpicking style doesn’t change, but the song is a lot warmer.  I love the way he delivers these lines almost conversationally

I feel that I’m a little lost most of the time
But I don’t really mind, oh, when my heart feels young
I travel through the storms but then I hang to dry
And I don’t really mind, oh, when my arm is in the rain and the sun

For the the final song “”The Running Styles of New York,” he switches back to the electric guitar.  He has to tune it and jokes that he was trying to dumb it down by bringing fewer guitars.  The song

begins with, “I hear beauty in things / Like the neighbors return / To their love and pride / Their day like a wicked ride / But then to belong.”

Continuing with the muted trumpet, C.J. plays some solo melodies while Kristian plays his complicated fingerpicking.  There’s some really lovely harmonics on this song, too.

I hope all is well and he’s able to tour again soon.

[READ: August 14, 2019] Gone with the Mind

I’ve enjoyed most of what Mark Leyner has written to varying degrees.  He tends to be an over-the-top satirist of himself, of pop culture and of concepts like the novel.

He wrote two novels and three collections of short stories in the 1990s, was celebrated and vilified and then kind of disappeared.

He was primarily writing for magazines and TV and stuff behind the scenes.  Then he came back in 2012 with The Sugar Frosted Nutsack which I have yet to read.   Then he wrote this one.  I grabbed it from work a couple years back and finally got around to it and it was much like what I was expecting and miles away from what I imagined.

The book beings with an introduction from Mark’s mother Muriel.  She is reading aloud and explains that she is coordinating director of the Nonfiction and the Food Court Reading Series at the Woodcreek Plaza Mall.  She thanks various people for giving them such a nice location at the mall as well as the sponsors Panda Express, Master Wok, Au Bon Pain, Auntie Anne’s Pretzels, etc. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BAILEN-NONCOMM 2019 (May 14, 2019).

A couple of years ago I had a pass to NonComm, but ultimately I decided not to go.  I had never been to World Cafe Live and, while it sounded like a fun time, it was just so many mid-week nights and lots of leaving early, that it sounded more exhausting than fun.

I have now been to World Cafe Live and I can imagine that the (less divaish) bands are hanging around talking to people (and radio personalities) which is probably pretty cool.

I love the idea of these sorta personal concerts, too.  But I have since come to see that they are 20-45 minutes tops.  Hardly worth driving 90 minutes (one-way) for.

But since the shows are streaming you can watch them live.  Or you can listen here.

Bailen is a trio made up of siblings Julia, Daniel and David Bailen.  The have an interesting mix of rock and country with folk leanings all serving as a backdrop for their stunning harmony vocals. 

They opened with “Rose Leaves,” which features lead vocals fro Julia and lovely harmonies from David.  Those harmonies continued on “Something Tells Me” in which both of them sang the whole song in perfect synchronicity.

“Going on a Feeling” is a much faster song with, again, dual vocals for the verses and then some cool Fleetwood Mac-esque vocals for the chorus.  There’s some really gorgeous wordless-harmonizing during the middle of the song and the a fairly rocking guitar solo from Julia.  That’s Julia on guitar for all of the songs as well as Daniel on bass and his twin David on drums.  So they’re sort of like the mixed-doubles version of Joseph.  Daniel says they couldn’t find any friends to be in their band, so it’s just family members.

After a jokey “thank you for choosing NonComm over ComicCon,” they play “I Was Wrong.”  The song has been getting a lot of justified airplay on WXPN and I really like it.  I really like the riff and the way it counterpoints with the smooth chorus.  It’s also catchy as anything (and their voices are stunning–even live).

It’s fun to hear a young band play a festival like this and talk about meeting some of the other bands.  I think it’s David who says, “we’re technically opening for Morrissey… with some stairs involved.”

“Your Love is All I Know”  sounds even more Fleetwood Mac the way the guitar and drums open the song.  There’s some country leaning in the sound,  but then another ripping buzzing rock guitar sound rocks the ending.

Their set ended with “Not Gonna Take Me.”  One of the guys sings the main lead vocal.  But when Julia adds harmonies after a few verses, it’;s magical once again.

I can see Bailen getting huge and yet, I can also see them being too hard to market.  Which is a shame because their music is superb.

[READ: May 3, 2019] “The Second Coming of the Plants”

The July/August issue of The Walrus is the Summer Reading issue.  This year’s issue had three short stories and three poems as special features.

I have enjoyed Gartner’s stories in the past. I liked the premise of this story but felt that, even at its short length, it was too long.  I get that the over the top language is done for effect, but plants can be boring too.

The premise of the story is that plants have taken enough from people and animals and are ready to dominate the earth.

There are three parts to the story, with the first being “Twilight of the Insects.”  This section is very long compared to the other two.  In this one, we hear about the plants kingdom’s rage.  Rage at letting “the insects carry on our fornication for us.”  Especially since “some of us virtually all vulva and vagina, penis and gland.”  They are the true hermaphrodites. The Mighty Hermaphrodites! (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NEGATIVLAND-No Other Possibility (1989).

In the year that Helter Stupid came out, Negativland released this one hour video.  It is a visual approximation of a Negativland album.  Lots of cuts, lots of snippets of ads and songs and news broadcasts.  It’s mostly nonsense with some reality and some things that may or may not be reality.  Who knows?

It opens with a critical diatribe that scrolls over a test pattern.  The diatribe by Crosley Bendix criticizes everything that is (correctly) poor about the video and making up other things–the death of a stuntman.

After the opening credits, the video opens with David Willis’ mother watching TV.  On the screen is a clip from Dick Vaughn and his Jack-O-Lantern (more below).  Then she asks David for her cigarettes and the song from A Big Ten 8 Place is acted out hilariously.

After some clips from video games and a commercial for Marlboro, there’s a video for “Nesbitt’s Lime Soda Song.”  When the bee comes into the song, it turns into clips of David filming his family talking about bees and more (like his grandma looking in the fridge for potato chips which makes David laugh).

Change channels until The Dick Vaughn Show comes on and he brings out David Willis to light up a Jack-O-Lantern with 700 volts.

After a commercial from ZOTOS and Nation Hairdressers and Cosmetologists Association that tells women they have to look their best in order to get a job.  “Appearance and good grooming are essential.”

Then it’s time for Trick or Treat with David Willis who is dressed as E.T.

He talks about Halloween safety with 5 hand drawn posters.

  1. no fresh fruit–nails razors
  2. looks for holes or tears in wrappers–inject chemicals
  3. avoid homemade treats
  4. avoid weird, strange-looking people.
  5. if you bob for apples make sure your partners are not sick

Then some explosions with cars flipping.  A small video slowly evolves revealing a live performance of David singing the “Very Stupid” song from 10-8.   It is noisier and rocks pretty hard while David yells the lyrics: “1, 2, stupid ; 3, 4 dumb.”  The version slowly comes into focus as David roams the audience.  he even adds new lyrics: “1,2 urinate ; 3, 4 defecate ; 5, 6 fornicate ; 7, 8  seat be sate!”

After a text: “Earlier that same evening,” a car drives into the building under a scroll from Dick Goodbody raving about this beauty, “her name is Monarch Mercury Monarch.”

Followed by a commercial for the Monarch.

Then there’s a video clip of the fire in the Negativland recording building (which I think is true?).  They interview Mark Hosler who grabbed master tapes and studio equipment.  He tours the burned out building.

Then there’s interstitial questions of what people think about TV.

  • An old man complaining about sex on TV.
  • Teenage girls saying they like soap operas because of the sex.
  • A guy saying TV would be improved if they quit showing so many commercials.

Up next is Crosley Bendix (“Director, Stylistic Premonitions” played by Don Joyce) of the Universal Media Netweb has an insane piece about numerology, at the end of which he cries, “Thanks a million!

  • MTV has fine guys on it

Then comes Negativland “Fire Song” with Mark singing in the burnt house.

A series of ads for canned foods: tomatoes, grapes, yams, dog food over a muzak version of “Age of Aquarius.”

Then comes the religion portion of the show.  Another diatribe by Crosley Bendix complains of people always searching for more intense entertainment.  Since Jesus’s time.  In fact, The Last Supper is the crucial link-up of food and show business.

Then comes more live scenes of some crazy music and kids walking around in costumes who start shouting about ice cream and other food.

  • I don’t watch religious TV because I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Clips of preachers and then Pastor Dick comes out,

He tells some dad jokes like asking for coffee without cream and the waitress saying “you’ll have to have coffee without milk because we are out of cream.”

He brings out a racist ventriloquist dummy Enrico Gomez.  Then has everyone sing along with the Christian Youth Fellowship song from the album How Do You Spell Joy?

He has a Stop sign and asks everyone to clap along. Stop! [clap clap] And let me tell you what the Lord has done do me.  When he turns around the sign is a hand written note “fuck you pastor dick.”

Then comes the 5 eyewitness news team featuring Hal Eisner, with the video of the audio used in side one of the album Helter Stupid.  Don Joyce is interviewed.

As the video ends, there’s one more guy that they interview.  He says

TV is gonna make me famous one day.  When the interviewer asks how, the guy says

“you gotta know how to exploit the media.”

Was he a plant?  Who knows.  There is no other possibility, godammit.

Watch the whole video here.

[READ: April 25, 2019] “Attention Geniuses: Cash Only”

Woody Allen doesn’t seem to write much for the New Yorker these days.  I’ve found over the years that I rather like some of his New Yorker jokes and then others are just ho-hum.  Of all of the short “funny” pieces in the New Yorker, Woody tends to be able to pull off three pages better than others.

Although this one drags and often come across as an excuse to throw out pretentious references.

And yet he’s got some great turns of phrase:

Jogging along Fifth Avenue last summer as part of a fitness program designed to reduce my life expectancy to that of a nineteenth century coal miner

(more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NEGATIVLAND-Escape From Noise (1987).

This was my introduction to Negativland.  And I loved it.  I loved everything about his album.  I used to play songs from it on my college radio show all the time.

I loved that the first track, “Announcement” opens with this ponderous statement

This announcement from the producers of this record contains important information for radio program directors, and is not for broadcast. The first cut on this record has been cross-format-focused for airplay success. As you well know, a record must break on radio in order to actually provide a living for the artists involved. Up until now, you’ve had to make these record-breaking decisions on your own, relying only on perplexing intangibilities like taste and intuition. But now, there’s a better way.  The cut that follows is the product of newly-developed compositional techniques, based on state-of-the-art marketing analysis technology. This cut has been analytically designed to break on radio. And it will, sooner or later.

After a count down comes the “radio hit” they call “Quiet Please” which opens with a cacophony of noise–smashing cymbals jagged guitars and bizarre sound effects with a man yelling “Quiet Please!”  It’s insane and really quite catchy–at least by 2019 standards.

After we hear David say, “I’m going to record all the noise,”, his mom talks about how much noise they don’t have there before a Girl says Michael Jackson and then a loud voice lists a whole bunch of 1980s bands indulging Weird Al and David…Booie (Bowie).

AND WE ESPECIALLY CALL FOR THE JUDGMENT IN THIS HOUR AND THE DESTROYING OF ROCK MUSIC DIRECTED SPECIFICALLY AGAINST CHILDREN AND WORKING SPECIFICALLY THROUGH THESE INDIVIDUALS FOR WHOM WE CALL FOR THE JUDGMENT IN THE SACRED FIRE IN THIS HOUR BEFORE THE THRONE OF ALMIGHTY GOD

This rant is followed by a catchy bouncy synth riff which opens the next song “Escape from Noise.”  It continues the premise of breaking music on the radio.  But then a man starts shouting about the noise all around us.  “Is there any escape from noise?”  This line always made me chuckle: IT’S NO WONDER YOU’RE EXHAUSTED AFTER A DAY OF SHOPPING.

Then David states in his inimitable voice:

Supposing you’re watching the Playboy Channel, (“Ooooh yes! Oh….”) and it’s just about time for them to have an orgasm(“….Oh! Oh! Harder! Oh! Oh! I think I’m gonna explode! Oh! Oh!”) When all of a sudden: Wham! The horrible noise comes in, and completely destroys your orgasm on the Playboy Channel. (“Oh yes-“).

“The Playboy Channel” also features Jello Biafra, flushing a toilet.

The bouncy riff returns for “Stress in Marriage.”  Along with other various song snippets, the announcer tells us, there’s enough built-in stress in marriage without noise contributing.

“Nesbitt’s Lime Soda Song” is a straight up folk song (and very catchy too.  But there’s a surprisingly dramatic temp throughout as a bee gets into the last bottle of the previous lime soda.

I brought a case of Nehi, and Double Cola, too
A half a dozen Upper 10’s, and good old Mountain Dew
I bought a quart of Cola-Up, to get me through the day
But just one bottle of Nesbitt’s Lime Soda
And we had to throw it away

“Over the Hiccups” features a little girl (Louisa Michaels) singing “Over the Rainbow” while suffering from the hiccups  It’s cute and bizarre.

“Sycamore” is a fascinating song that splices spoken clips about guns and a planned community.

“Car Bomb” is two minutes of thumping drums and screaming vocals.  Each “verse” ends in a shout of CAR BOMB! and a humongous explosion.  It’s awesome.

“Methods of Torture” has various synth sounds and then describes how sound was used as methods of torture: “put someone’s head in side a bell and ring it.  And eventually they’ll go insane.

“Yellow Black and Rectangular” is a pretty song–various bell-like sounds looping while a man and woman talk about a sign that’s yellow and black with wedge shapes inside.  The splicing is exquisite.

“Backstage Pass” has samples of presumably Jerry Garcia and Mickey Hart (see below) with a sitar, I guess?  Not the best song on the record, for sure (and an homophobic slur).  But it leads into the masterpiece that is “Christianity Is Stupid.”

“Christianity Is Stupid” is a four-minute track that samples the propaganda movie If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do?, with primarily the narrator saying over and over “Christianity is Stupid, Communism is Good.  Give up!”    It’s awesome.

Shop as usual and avoid panic buying.

You can only follow that up with something more ridiculous and sublime: “Time Zones.”  I’m not sure why, but this track was a personal favorite among myself and my friends.  After a musical interlude, a narrator talks about the Soviet Union before a transistor radio begins talking about how many time zones there are in the Soviet Union.  Eleven.  Eleven.

“You Don’t Even Live Here” is a great recording of a hearing in which a woman yells about a nuclear reactor being built in their community.  It’s pretty inspiring, actually (even if it is rather distorted).  The music is pretty cool, too.

“The Way of It” ends the disc in a kind of recap–”this is not the way of it…all that shouting, all that noise.”  Followed by “Endscape” a little cheering section to close the record.

I haven’t listened to this is many years, but it sounded even better this time through.  This album is so far ahead of it’s time it’s ridiculous.  Its not even funny.

The creators of this masterpiece were:

  • Mark Hosler: Singing, synthesizers, guitars, voice tapes, percussions, rhythm loops, bomb parts, David manipulation, tiny metal banjo, recorder, lots of other noises, mix
  • Don Joyce: Yelling, talking tapes, electric tympani, synthesizer, lyrics, singing, Booper bee, bomb parts and assembly, noises everywhere, mix
  • Chris Grigg: Drums, synthesizer, singing, computer & software, field recordings, mix
  • David Wills: Talking, shortwave, family tape, bomb parts, regular Booper
  • Richard Lyons: Singing, lyrics, voice
With contributions from
  • Ian Allen: Helicopter (on “Sycamore”), Rhythm Loop (on “Car Bomb”), Bell (on “Time Zones”)
  • Jello Biafra c/o Dead Kennedys: Toilet Flushing (on “The Playboy Channel”)
  • Das c/o Big City Orchestra: Voice Tapes (on “Quiet Please”)
  • Dina Emerson: Wordless Vocals (on “You Don’t Even Live Here”)
  • Steve Fisk: Optigan and Voice Tapes (on “Michael Jackson”)
  • Tera Freedman: Voice Tape (on “Backstage Pass”)
  • Phil Freihofner: Bomb Parts (on “Car Bomb”)
  • Ray Briem: radio talk show host (on “Time Zones”)
  • Ed Markmann: Paid Voice
  • Fred Frith: Urban Drum and Halfspeed Violin (on “Michael Jackson”)
  • Jerry Garcia c/o Grateful Dead: Mouth Sounds and Chimes (on “Backstage Pass”)
  • Alexander Hacke c/o Einstürzende Neubauten: Metal Noises (on “Christianity Is Stupid”)
  • Mickey Hart c/o Grateful Dead: Percussion and Processed Animals (on “Backstage Pass”)
  • Tom Herman c/o Tripod Jimmie: Torture Guitars (on “Methods of Torture”)
  • Henry Kaiser: Doublespeed Disco Guitars (on “Quiet Please”)
  • Louisa Michaels c/o Step One Nursery School: Singing (on “Over the Hiccups”)
  • Mark Mothersbaugh c/o Devo: Jazz Bass, Jimi Hendrix, E-cussion, Saxophone and Noises (on “The Playboy Channel”)
  • The Residents Hoots and Clanging (on “You Don’t Even Live Here”)
  • Rev. Ivan Stang c/o The Church of the SubGenius: Larynx (on “Christianity Is Stupid”)
  • Rand Weatherwax c/o CBS: Orchestra Hits and E-cussion (on “Quiet Please”)
  • Rob Wortman c/o Kingshouse: Leaf blower (on “You Don’t Even Live Here”)

[READ: April 20, 2019] “Quality Time”

This story was sitting on my kitchen table and my mother-in-law picked it up and wondered why I had a 19 year-old story from the New Yorker.  She bristled at the early sentence: “She had her husband’s permission.”

This shaped my view of the story before I read it and I looked at it with a 2019 viewpoint to see if the story was retrograde.

The fact that a woman is hit by a car and killed didn’t help very much.  Especially since, although her death affects him, it is never given a justification.  Nor is it even a plot point, per se. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NEGATIVLAND-A Big 10-8 Place (1983).

After the cut-and-paste craziness of the first two Negativland albums, this third one was a bit more thought through as a whole.  It’s still a bizarre pastiche of samples and sounds, but there’s a more unifying theme.  And a lot of cursing.

There are six tracks on the disc.  It opens with “Theme from a Big 10-8 Place.”   Many of the sounds that you’ll hear throughout the disc are sampled here, but the main point of this song is a simple drum beat and David speak/singing “very stupid, very stupid” as well as some other thematically appropriate lines.

One two stupid
Three four dumb
Five six idiotic
Seven eight seat bee sate
Very stupid very stupid very stupid very stupid!
I like Concord
And 180-G
I like Pleasant Hill
No other possibility

The track ends with fascinating instructions like, “I want you to put parakeet feathers into your television set if you’re watching MTV” and “I want you to trip over your grocery cart if you’re shoplifting from Safe Muffins.”

The bulk of side one is “A Big 10-8 Place –Part One”: 13 and a half minutes of samples placed back to back.  These include: A woman screaming “Tommy?”; a clip from what sounds like a butchering video (“the second thing that happens is that the butcher loses control”) ; car commercials (“then the door closes behind you in safe and secure comfort”) ; house shopping commercials and the piano from “Clowns and Ballerinas.”  After about 6 minutes the bad language comes in–insults from what sounds like a CB radio.

“Clowns and Ballerinas” is 90 seconds of a little girl singing the song “Clowns and Ballerinas” to a simple piano accompaniment.

“Introduction” brings David out as he prepares us for him to talk about 180 and the Letter G.  “In a few moments we’re going to be 10-8.”

“Four Fingers” is a surprisingly catchy song played on an acoustic guitar with a whistling solo.  The vocals are smooth and clean and the lyrics are almost creepy but are actually funny:

I am a man, a man with two fingers
A man with two fingers on my hand
I am a man, a man with two fingers
But that doesn’t count my middle finger, my index finger, or my thumb.

Then comes “180-G: A Big 10-8 Place –Part Two” a 16 minute pastiche of David telling us how to get to 180 and the Letter G.  There’s cut up music behind them with choice lines like this:

Okay people we are 10-8 and the number is 180 and the letter is G.  There is no other possibility.

But before you get onto the bridge, around one big turn, you’ll come up to the place where the sex chemicals burned up.

First of all it’s very important that you turn on your AM radio. Set it to 1010 on your dial, and let the radio frequency energy from K-101 overload your little tuner until it distorts very highly [crazy extreme distortion] . And right at the point of that extreme distortion, there’s the big chairs. I’m not exactly sure, but I think that’s where all the sewer water from Oakland goes.

my favorite ham radio repeater station — that’s WR6 Automatic Bowel Movement.  And any of you who are into jamming, keep talking, keep jamming, because I’ll be listening on my scanner radio, and just maybe…you’ll be on the next album.

And just before you get to the top of the hill, you’ll notice the green slime oozing out from under the house at 180 and the letter G.

I repeat, you’re gonna have to shoplift the HR Steam Cleaning System from Safe Muffins.

About half way through it turns more jazzy (with guitars and bongos)

The door opens automatically, and the first thing you see is the orange carpet inside 180…and you’ll see the dog juice, the horrible dog juice all over the orange carpet at 180 and the letter G.

And then comes another well-known section from Negativland, a lengthy argument between David and his mother about where he put her cigarettes.

“I think I’d like to have a cigarette now. Where are my cigarettes, David?”
“They’re on top of the refrigerator.”
“I looked on top of the refrigerator. They aren’t there. will you please tell me what you did with my cigarettes?”
“Maybe you left them in the car.”
“I haven’t been in the car all day. You must have put them somewhere and I can’t find them. You better tell me now or I’m going to really get mad.”
“Oh yeah, I think I know where they are. They’re in back of the TV set, where all the parakeet feathers are.”

It’s all crazy and bizarre, but it’s kind of fun as a fractured narrative.

[READ: April 19, 2019] “Le Mooz”

This story is set in Ojibweg land.  Margaret has survived three husbands.  Nanapush has survived six wives.  They got together, “they were old by the time they shacked up out in the deep bush.”

They were both heated and passionate–both in love and in anger, “they made love with an amazed greed and purity that astounded them.  At the same time it was apt to burn out of control.”

To survive their passions, they rarely collaborated on any task, finding solitary work was more productive for both of them.  One day Margaret came swiftly home.  She beached the boat and was running up shouting “Le Mooz!”

Nanapush was sleeping and was irritated to be awoken by the yelling.  But if there was a Mooz, a moose, that would be meat for them for a long time. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE CALIDORE STRING QUARTET-Tiny Desk Concert #843 (April 22, 2019).

Whenever I hear a wonderful string quartet, I yell at myself for not listening to more classical music.  I’m not sure why I don’t–I just like my rock too much I guess.  But these 18 minutes of strings are really fantastic.  And I’m adding The Calidore String Quartet [Jeffrey Myers, violin; Ryan Meehan, violin; Jeremy Berry, viola; Estelle Choi, cello] to the list of quartets I particularly admire.

The blurb is great for unpacking what’s going on, so I’ll let it do just that.

The [string quartet] genre was born some 250 years ago and pioneered by Joseph Haydn, but composers today are still tinkering with its possibilities. Consider Caroline Shaw. The young, Pulitzer-winning composer wrote the opening work in this set, First Essay: Nimrod, especially for the Calidore String Quartet [back in 2016].

Over a span of eight minutes, the supple theme that opens this extraordinary work takes a circuitous adventure. It unfolds into a song for the cello, is sliced into melodic shards, gets bathed in soft light, becomes gritty and aggressive and disguises itself in accents of the old master composers. Midway through, the piece erupts in spasms that slowly dissolve back into the theme.

I love the pizzicato on the cello–there’s so much of it, from deep bass notes to very high notes.  Including the final note.

Their new album explores composers in conflict.  In the case of of the next song, loveless marriage.

The Calidore players also chose music by the quirky Czech composer, Leoš Janáček who, in 1913, set one of his operas on the moon. He wrote only two string quartets but they are dazzling. The opening Adagio, from “String Quartet No. 1, ‘Adagio'”, is typical Janáček, with hairpin turns that veer from passionate romance to prickly anxiety.

This piece is much more dramatic with powerful aching chords ringing out.

Reaching back farther, the ensemble closes the set with an early quartet by Beethoven, who took what Haydn threw down and ran with it. The final movement from Beethoven’s “String Quartet Op. 18, No. 4, Allegro – Prestissimo” both looks back at Haydn’s elegance and implies the rambunctious, even violent, risks his music would soon take.

2020 is the 250th anniversary of his birth.  They are celebrating by playing all of his string quartets in various cities.  He says that this piece is the most exiting part.

I love the trills that each instrument runs through in the middle of the song.

All of these pieces sound amazing.

[READ: April 22, 2019] “Cut”

This story started out is such an amusing way:

There’s no good way to say it–Peggy woke up most mornings oddly sore, sore in the general region of her asshole.

But it’s not an amusing scene at all.  It burns when she uses the toilet and she finds blood in her pajamas.

She could see a cut but only when using a hand mirror while she was crouched at the right angle.  But even so, her groin “was that of a middle-aged woman and not as strictly delineated as it once had been.”  Nevertheless, whenever she looked for it she always “paused to appreciate the inert drapery of her labia.”

The cut was there, but it seemed to migrate.   She tried to look it up online, but only found porn.  Adding Web MD brought back porn in doctor’s offices.  And adding Mayo Clinic introduced her to people with a fetish for mayonnaise. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NEGATIVLAND-Points (1981)

Negativland’s second album continues with the noisy nonsense of the first.  This disc actually has track titles, which is nice.  It’s about 38 minutes of experimental sounds, home recordings and all manner of noisy sound effects.

“Harry to the Ferry” features David teasing his mom who is playing the accordion–retake after retake with laughing and frustration.  Totally covered by jamming noises.  At the end his, aunt sings while his mom plays the title song.

“The Answer Is…” is simple synth sound–possibly even a demo from a synth?  It sounds like an ice skating rink.  It’s quite nice.  After three minutes we get the title sampled and then the music begins again with a bit more improv.

“Scolding Box” over menacing synths, David says “Green boy is extremely mad, he’s going to start scolding.”  The rest of the nearly six minutes is wavery, unsettling synth waves and what might be clarinet samples.

“That Darn Keet” David shouts, “Blue boy escaped!” followed by thumping and more menacing synths.

“Dear Mary” with a buzzing sound underneath and amid slamming noises, a man recites a stiff, formal letter to Mary about how hard it is to be yourself.  The end is a TV clip from a game show.

“Clutch Cargo ’81” piano improv with weirdo synth sounds bouncing in an out.

“Babac D’babc” all manner of weird chirping sounds and maybe balloons and then people arguing about their marriage.  The argument comes in chunks with each one getting more intense.

“A Nice Place to Live” a promotional audio for Countara Costa county.

“A Bee Fly” mechanical sounds and high pitched noises for a minute before it jumps to a track that actually talks about a bee.

“No Hands” starts as a song of sorts under lots of echo.  Then come voices of people at a barbecue (with more bee interruption) and meat sizzling.

“Potty Air” is basically six minutes of various electronic noises and static–seems like they are testing out to see just what their electronic machines can make.

[READ: April 20, 2019] “White Walls” 

This story is set in Russia and was translated from the Russian by Jamey Gambrell.

It begins with the tale of Mikhail Avgustovich Janson, a pharmacist of Swedish descent.  In 1946 he built a dacha near Leningrad intending to rent it out to city folk.  He was soon ready for tenants and a family.  But “The Lord had something else in mind,” and Janson died soon after finishing everything.

The narrator’s family were his tenants and they bought the land from Janson’s widow.   But that was years before the narrator was born–she never met Janson.  But she and her brothers found all kinds of artifacts in the house.  Items in the attic and a large iron object that the kids assumed was a bomb even though they were told it wasn’t.

In 1997, the narrator and her family decided to strip the wallpaper and make the place their own at last.   They bought new wallpaper that they rather liked and began stripping the old. (more…)

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