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Archive for the ‘Mad Scientists’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: THE ENFIELD TENNIS ACADEMY-The Dark (2017).

The Enfield Tennis Academy is one of the major locations in David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest.  So, of course, a band that names itself after it must be listened to.

This is the second release by the band (which states “The Enfield Tennis Academy is TR.”

The Dark is described as

This EP is a collection of remixes and covers of Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark”, from the 1984 album “Born in the U.S.A.” It is not ironic. “Dancing in the Dark” is © Bruce Springsteen and Columbia.

And that is literally what this is. Five tracks that rethink “Dancing in the Dark” each one called “Dancing in the Dark.”

Track 1 opens with someone doing a kind of Elvis impersonation (or is it actually Bruce?) of the first line of the song: I get up in the evening…”  It then gets echoed and looped on itself until it is inaudible.  After a minute a guitar comes in strumming music backwards, I believe.  The big takeaway is the rolling “I” repeated over and over.  After 1:30 there’s a rather pretty sax solo. which may be from the song, I don’t know it that well.

Track 2 is an ambient piece with electronic claps and a kind of slow almost pixelated pipe organ version of the main melody of the song.  There’s some of those 80s processed “ahhhhs” added to the end.  It would eerily make you think of the song without knowing exactly why.

Track 3 is a noisy track.  Electronic drums played very rapidly and then some glitchy guitars playing the melody in triple time.  It is the least recognizable of the five pieces.

Track 4 is a fingers-on-chalkboard electronic screech with what I assume is the song played in reverse.  It’s a tough minute before the noise clicks away and we’re left with the backwards vocals.  If you didn’t know it was “Dancer in the Dark” you might not recognize the melody but if you do, you can kind of hear it.

Track 5 plays the original song in the middle ear. But in the left ear is another song (as if the radio was staticky and in the right ear is another even louder song.  But Bruce is squarely in the middle.  It’s pretty disconcerting.  Ultimately, the left ear gives way to people talking and the right ear reveals itself to be “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman.”  It fades and for about ten seconds during which you can hear pretty much only the Bruce song, but then it all falls apart into glitchy noise.

The longest track is 2:15; the rest are about 2 minutes.  No one will say this disc is enjoyable, but it is kind of ugly fun.

[READ: January 30, 2017] Liō ‘s Astonishing Tales from the Haunted Crypt of Unknown Horrors

I have observed before about the maddening publication life of Liō books.  It’s going on four years since a new collection has been published.

But at the same time there are a number of books that cover the same territory.  Like this one.

This book collects “Liō” (which I take to mean Happiness is a Warm Cephalopod) and Silent But Deadly.  But what puts this book head and shoulders above the others (and just about any other collection of any series) is that it is almost completely annotated.

I didn’t compare the two books to see if all of the strips were indeed included.  But I’ll assume that claim is true.

Tatulli doesn’t comment on every strip but he does on a lot of them.  Like the very first one (in which he criticizes his–admittedly horrible-looking–spider.

He has at least three comments about what a genius Charles Schulz was.  Including the first time he tried to draw Lucy and Charlie: “I wanted to use the retro 1950s Peanuts look, but it was a bitch to reproduce…Schulz just make it look so simple.”

He’s also very critical of his drawing style of Mary Worth: “I won’t even tell you how embarrassingly long it took to make this lousy copy.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE ENFIELD TENNIS ACADEMY-“My Missing Eye” (2017).

The Enfield Tennis Academy is one of the major locations in David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest.  So, of course, a band that names itself after it must be listened to.

This is the first release by the band (which states “The Enfield Tennis Academy is TR.”

The bandcamp site describes this song as

“Garbage thrown together on a free trial of Reason. Song’s about missing a fucking eye. Real music soon.”

This is two minutes of noisy instrumental metal math rock.  There’s a lot of different sounds in this two minute song.

It opens with some staccato pummeling sounds–the guitars are interesting in that they sound like they are chords yet ringing out at the same time.  The middle is a really fast pummeling section that reminds me of Ministry.  Those opens stringed chords come back late in the song, and they sound really cool.

I’m curious to see what TETA’s “real music” is going to sound like.

[READ: July 20, 2017] Reheated Liō

I have really enjoyed the Liō books (going forward, I’m leaving off that line over the o, because it’s a real pain).

The strip has been going on for some 12 years now, which is pretty amazing.  And yet, there don’t seem to be any new or recent collections out.

So Lio is strip about a boy named Lio.  Lio is a dark, dark kid.  He has a pet squid, he loves monsters and he’s delighted by chaos.  Over the years his character hasn’t changed much but Tatulli has given him some surprising tenderness, which is a nice trait. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BADBADNOTGOOD-Tiny Desk Concert #593 (January 23, 2017).

I’m amused at how kinda dorky all of these guys look–except for the drummer who looks “cool.”  Why is that amusing?  Because of this blurb:

BADBADNOTGOOD made a name for itself by reworking songs from the likes of Nas and Ol’ Dirty Bastard, eventually catching the attention of Odd Future leader Tyler, the Creator. The masses took notice in 2015 when the group produced an entire LP for Ghostface Killah, Sour Soul. BADBADNOTGOOD has been called a hip-hop ensemble, but its foundation is clearly jazz, which provides a gateway to countless genres. On IV, the group allows that gateway to widen, adding soul and funk to the repertoire.

And they are all only in their 20s!

They play three songs from IV.  This first “And That, Too.” is a very jazzy song.  I love the complex piano melody that’s getting thrown around–syncopation and almost chaos, but always staying true to the great rhythm laid down by the bass and gentle drums.  I also happen to love the flute solo that rides over the top of everything–it provides a great 19070s jazz vibe.  The flute switch es to alt sax, and instrument that I think is kinda cheesy–I’d have rather it stayed with flute.  But his solo is pretty great–meandering and intense.

Introducing “In Your Eyes” the drummer says that he was fortunate enough to go to high school with a sax player who he didn’t know would have a voice that would blow him away … “later in my life” (ha).  Charlotte Day Wilson’s voice is deep and sultry although I don’t particularly like it–it feels too forced or something?  But she does sound much older than she looks.  Which is shame because I think the music of the song is pretty great.  The flutist has switched to guitar for this song (that’s a talented dude).

Before introducing the final song the drummer says “My 2017 is feeling pretty good so let’s keep it going.”  The fact that this was recorded sometime around the inauguration trump feels incredibly tone deaf.  But whatever.  “Cashmere” (“which only slightly veered from the studio version”) is a ten-minute song that opens with a very cool high bass note section and lots of piano.  The guitarist switches to yet another sax (four instruments in three songs).   The middle of the song is just the bass notes and a  lengthy piano solo.  i also like how the song seems to be over but that bass line picks up one more time.

I was surprisingly delighted with this Tony Desk Concert.

[READ: July 4, 2016] Lunch Lady and the Bake Sale Bandit

As Book 5 opens, Lunch Lady foils some safe robbers (in a very funny way).  I really enjoy how every book starts out with an intro comic showing off Lunch Lady’s mad skills.

Then it switches over to a school bus.  The Breakfast Bunch is trying to get on board–they don’t usually ride the bus–but the driver, Brenda, is pretty awful. To them and to everyone.  She drives like a maniac and yells at everyone.  She’s nice to the principal bit once he tells her his news, she can’t even pretend to be nice to him.

The news is that there is going to be a bake sale.  And if it goes well, the students will get a field trip and… Brenda will be the bus driver!

Gah! “How she despises children.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JOSHUA BELL & JEREMY DENK-Tiny Desk Concert #568 (September 30, 2016).

After hearing a pianist and then a violinist, it was fun to hear a duet of the two.

Joshua Bell and Jeremy Denk are masters of their crafts.  Although I did not know that:

Bell and Denk have been chamber-music partners for 10 years, and they’re a bit wound up on Brahms these days. They’ve released a new album, For the Love of Brahms, and they’re performing the music, along with that of Brahms’ friend Robert Schumann, in concerts.

They play three pieces, two Brahms, and one Schumann.  And they all sound spectacular.

Brahms: Violin Sonata No. 3, IV. Presto agitato
“You gotta love Brahms,” Joshua Bell says, a little short of breath. He’s wiping sweat from his brow after the big rock ‘n’ roll conclusion to the composer’s D minor Violin Sonata. Bell and the astute pianist Jeremy Denk play it with all the turbulence and tenderness Brahms demands, and it’s an invigorating way to open this Tiny Desk concert. [I love that the focus jumps back and forth from violin to piano, with interesting riffs and trills from one then the other.  I also love the way the melodies seem to creep around and sneak up on us].

Schumann: Romance, Op. 94, No. 2
Contrasting with the fiery Brahms, Schumann’s Romance, Op. 94, No. 2 unfolds like a song without words. Bell makes his 1713 Stradivarius sing, capturing the bittersweet tone of the music. When the theme comes around for the second time, he lightens bow pressure for a more intimate, almost whispered disclosure.

Brahms (arr. Joachim): Hungarian Dance No. 1
Another of Brahms’ close friends figures prominently in Bell and Denk’s final offering. Violinist Joseph Joachim was something like the Joshua Bell of Brahms’ day, as well as the man for whom the composer wrote his Violin Concerto. Joachim’s gift to Brahms was creating piano and violin arrangements of the composer’s Hungarian Dances.  Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 1, powered by a sweeping theme and chugging piano topped with pearly descending runs, whisks you to a smoky café where gypsy fiddlers battle for supremacy. Starting off on the low G string, Bell’s tone is as rich as dark chocolate, the feeling a touch wistful.  [I really love Hungarian dances.  It seems like every composer’s take on Hungarian music is excellent.  I love how the violin plays a very simple yet dark melody and the piano sprinkles in all of these descending notes in a fairly dramatic scale.  And then of course as all the dances do, it speeds up, careening around in wild abandon and fun.  Wonder what made Hungary such a lively place].

[READ: June 13, 2016] Lunch Lady and the Author Visit Vendetta

I rather like that the Lunch Lady books are sequential and mildly dependent on each other. Of course you can read them in any order you like, but reading them in the proper order allows you to see some continuity between books.

In the previous book, Dee mentioned that the author of the Flippy Bunny series was coming to the school. And in this book he does.

The kids are super excited that Mr Scribson is going to be there to read and sign books.  He is something of a primadonna though as he is upset that the reading will be taking place in the gym.  After his presentation, he signs books, but when Hector brings him a very old copy of the book Scribson says “I don’t sign opened books.”  Hector who has always love the Flippy Bunny books is devastated). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RACHEL BARTON PINE-Tiny Desk Concert #555 (August 5, 2016).

I’ll let the blurb do the introduction:

Violinist Rachel Barton Pine began playing Bach in church at age 4. Ever since, she’s been mastering and re-mastering Bach’s set of six Sonatas and Partitas—more than two hours of solo violin music that looms like a proverbial Mount Everest for any serious fiddler. The trick is getting the details down. Bach left us with the notes but not much else. Pine recently analyzed every measure of these works, and prepared a new edition of the music with her own dynamic markings, phrasing indications, bowings and fingerings.

For this performance, Pine chose three contrasting movements from the set and plays them on her Guarneri del Gesu violin, which was built in 1742 — eight years before Bach died. She highlights the spirit of the dance in the “Tempo di Borea” (a Bourée from the First Partita). She unfolds a serene melody, just lightly accompanied, in the “Largo” (from the Third Sonata), and she closes with the intertwining “Fuga” (from the First Sonata), which sounds like three violinists in deep discussion.

And the music is gorgeous (Bach is truly sublime) and Pine’s violin playing is stunning.

She plays three pieces:

  • J.S. Bach: “Tempo di Borea” (from Partita No. 1)
  • J.S. Bach: “Largo” (from Sonata No. 3)
  • J.S. Bach: “Fuga” (from Sonata No. 1)

The first she describes as dance music.  She says that even though this was not created for the dance, you can sense the implicit choreography.

She describes the second piece as the sorbet course in between the exciting stuff.  It is in the key of F major, which historically is an intimate key.  This piece is calm and peaceful with the sparest of accompaniments.

For the final piece she says she will finish by playing the most complex of violin pieces.  Bach wrote it as a fugue for solo instrument.  She describes a fugue as a musical pattern that the voices toss around in conversation with each other.  So this little four string violin sounds like a full string ensemble.  And it absolutely does.  The opening melody is followed by the same melody on a lower string (while the first string is playing something else at the same time).  And then that riff is continued on the next string while the other two continue.  It is amazing.  And then near the end, she plays some incredibly fast dervishes of flying fingers and that crescendo is not even the end.

You might say that Bach was cruel, except it sounds so amazing, it’s worth it.

[READ: June 13, 2016] Lunch Lady and the League of Librarians

Librarians don’t really like when librarians are portrayed as villainous–unless they are done well.  And these librarians are pretty evil.

I enjoyed how this book also started out with a short clip of Lunch Lady stopping some bad guys before we even get to the story proper.

This book sees the Breakfast Bunch split between wanting to play video games (Hector is excited about the new X-Station 5000) while Dee is excited for the Read-a-thon contest.  Of course when they go to check out the Book Fair, the librarians insist that it starts tomorrow, not today.

Things seems calm and quiet for Lunch Lady.  In the meantime, Betty has come up with a new gadget: taco-vision night goggles. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: EDDIE PALMIERI-Tiny Desk Concert #559 (August 19, 2016).

Eddie Palmieri is a jazz legend although I’m not exactly sure if I’ve heard of him or not (his name sounds familiar, but..).

But the blurb fills me in:

Eddie Palmieri is that once-in-a-lifetime musician, bandleader, composer and arranger. An icon for both modern and Latin jazz, he continues to break tradition and innovate within many musical styles, including salsa, fusion, Latin funk and more.

He is, indeed, a magnificent player.  A few minutes into “Iraida” you can hear him start to growl (I actually thought it was a buzzing on the piano at first).  I love watching him slide his fingers slow up the keys at the end of he song and then play a deep low note to end it.

He has an amusing introduction to “The Persian Scale.”  This next composition is called The Persian Scale and it’s quite an interesting composition….  It has a cool, interesting riff with staccato and counterpoint.  And he lays fast and loud (with grunts), although it does slow down.  Eventually, for such a wild opening. the song mellows out by the end with some very pretty, delicate trills.

“La Libertad” is uptempo and he says “if you want to dance, do it.”  He plays a brief intro and then when the melody kicks in on the low notes, it’s pretty great.  In the middle, he starts playing a very typical Latin American melody on the bass notes (is that a mambo?) and when an audience member starts clapping along (a rather complex pattern), he smiles and say very good.

This is a fun piano concert with lots of variety and different styles and he handles them all with much skill.

[READ: June 11, 2016] Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute

I learned about Lunch Lady from the Comics Squad books which Krosoczka and the Holms’ edited.

Since I enjoyed the Lunch Lady mini comic, I decided it was time to read the real thing–Tabby also loved them (she’s a big fan of Babymouse as well).

Despite the fact that the title of the book kind of gives away the plot of the story, I suspect that the plot wasn’t really the main point. Rather, it was all meant to be good fun that Lunch Lady turns out to be a crime fighter complete with her own assistant who comes up with awesome gadgets. (more…)

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 socks kronosSOUNDTRACK: KRONOS QUARTET-Tiny Desk Concert #322 (November 25, 2013).

2013 was the 40th anniversary of Kronos Quartet.  I first heard of them about eight years after they started with their cool arrangement of “Purple Haze.”  And then I learned that they were like a sponge, soaking up and playing music from all over the world: In just one year they released albums with tango, songs by South African composers, Polish composers, jazz musicians and so much more.

I have many of their releases, although I realized I more or less stopped listening to new stuff from them around the turn of the century (since when they have released some 16 albums!).

Well, amazingly, the Quartet is still the same original players (except for the cellist–the cello is like Kronos’ drummer as they seem to replace her every couple of years).

They play three pieces here and the three range the gamut from dark and broody to rather sweet to quirky.  In other words, typical Kronos.

For more info:

The musicians —  David Harrington (violin) and longtime members John Sherba (violin) and Hank Dutt (viola) and new (as of 2013) cellist Sunny Yang — could reminisce over more than 800 new works and arrangements they’ve commissioned in 40 years. But instead, the new-music train pushes ever onward to new territories. They remain a living, breathing world-heritage site for music.

Now in the midst of its 40th-anniversary tour, Kronos brings to this Tiny Desk Concert a new arrangement, a work from a new album and, for Kronos, something of a chestnut, a piece the group recorded a whopping five years ago.

“”Aheym” (Yiddish for “homeward”) was written for Kronos by Bryce Dessner; a member of the Brooklyn rock band The National, he studied composition at Yale. The music thrives on nervous energy, pulsating with strumming and spiccato (bouncing the bow on strings) while building to a tremendous fever.”

I love this piece. It is intense and dramatic with its 4-3-3 bowing from all four members.  There’s an interesting cello melody with pizzicato strings from the rest.  The overall melody seems somewhat circular with different instruments taking on different leads.  But this song also plays with some interesting bowing techniques.  In addition to the spiccato (about 4 minutes in), the players drag the bow for momentary scraping and scratching sounds.

Another wonderfully dramatic moment comes at 7 minutes where each musician takes a turn bowing his or her note while the violin plays a super fast series of notes.  The song builds and build in dramatic until it gets to about nine and  half minutes and it reaches its powerful ending.

“Lullaby,” opens with plucked cello notes and strummed viola.  “It is a traditional song with Afro-Persian roots (from the group’s Eastern-flavored 2009 album Floodplain), [and] is woven from different cloth altogether. Colorful tones that lay between our Western pitches are threaded through the music, anchored by a gorgeous solo from violist Dutt; his contribution takes on the warm and weathered sound of a grandmother singing to a child.”  It is slow and moody and beautiful.

Harrington introduces the final piece by saying it’s by a performer that no one had heard of–including, until recently, even himself.

“Kronos caps off the concert with another hairpin turn, this time to a fresh arrangement of “Last Kind Words,” a little-known blues song from around 1930, recorded by singer and guitarist Geeshie Wiley. In Jacob Garchik’s exuberant arrangement (which Kronos premiered this fall), interlocking strums and plucks provide a kind of rhythm section, while Harrington’s violin stands in for the now-forgotten blues singer.”

There’s lots of plucked notes from everyone–including plucked bent note on the viola which gives it a real “early” guitar sound.  While I don’t know what Geeshie sounded like, so I can’t compare the violin to her vocal, the whole thing sounds great together.  In fact the whole thing is unlike any string quartet I’ve heard–so different and wonderful.

I’m going to have to bust out so Kronos CDs.

[READ: September 10, 2016] There’s a Monster in My Socks

I’ve been quite puzzled about the publication history of the Liō books.  And this just adds another layer of confusion.  This book covers the exact same time period as Happiness is a Squishy Cephalopod which was published in 2007.  The difference is that Cephalopod placed all of the strips in order, while this one seems to move things around quite a bit (the thinner format also means that it can’t quite handle the single panel strips very well.   But more egregious is that this volume (remember, the one printed after the previous one) prints the Sunday color strips in black and white.

The book also leaves some of the strips out.  It covers the date range from May 15, 2006 – Feb 16, 2007 (Cephaolopod went to May 23), but while it has the Feb 14 strip, it does not have the Feb 15 strip.  Weird.

So, basically this is an inferior version of the same book, but the publishers presumably wanted the books in this more friendly size (or some other nefarious reason).

I’ll include the review of Cephalopod below.

And, here’s the current list of existing Liō books. It’s a shame that there are years and years of strips thus far uncollected. (more…)

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