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Archive for the ‘Five Dials’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: 47SOUL-Tiny Desk Concert #883 (August 26, 2019).

I had never heard of 47Soul and, surprisingly, the blurb doesn’t give any real background about the band.  So I had to turn to Wikipedia.

47Soul is a Jordanian Palestinian electronic music group.  The band’s first album, Shamstep, was released in 2015 and they are one of the main forces behind the Shamstep electronic dance music movement in the Middle East.

So what the heck is Shamstep?

Shamstep is based on mijwiz (a levantine folk musical style) and electronic dance.  ‘Sham’ refers to the local region of “Bilad al-Sham”, and ‘step’ refers to dubstep. The band’s music is also associated with the traditional dance called Dabke.

So, that’s a lot to take in, especially if you don’t know what half of those words mean.

The blurb does help a little bit more:

Shamstep is the creation of 47SOUL. At its heart is Arab roots music laced with dub, reggae and electronic dance music, including dubstep. It’s positive-force music with freedom, celebration and hope for the people of the Sham region (Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria).

47SOUL play three songs and their instrumentation is pretty fascinating.  Three of the guys sing.  They also play bass drum (Walaa Sbeit); darbuka– a small hand drum (Tareq Abu Kwaik); guitar (Hamza Arnaout) and synthesizers (Ramzy Suleiman).

So what do they sound like?

Well, the first song “Mo Light” opens with some very synthesized “traditional” Middle Eastern music.  It sounds like an electronic version of traditional instrumentation.  The guitar comes in with a sound that alternates between heavy metal riffage and reggae stabs.  The three singers take turns singing.  Walaa Sbeit is up first singing in Arabic.  Then there’s a middle section sung by Tareq Abu Kwaik who is playing the darbuka and an electronic drum pad.  His voice is a bit rougher (the Arabic is quite guttural).  Meanwhile Ramzy Suleiman adds backing vocals and seems to sing loudest in English.

For the next song, Tareq Abu Kwaik does the narration while introducing Walaa Sbeit:

“Is it ok if I do a little dance on your desk?” asked 47SOUL singer and percussionist Walaa Sbeit on first seeing the Tiny Desk. I thought a minute, went under the desk, tightened the bolts, stuck some splints of wood under a few of the uneven legs and (feeling reassured) gave him the nod. It would be our first traditional Middle Eastern Dabke dancing atop the Tiny Desk and the first sounds of Shamstep (a kind of electronic dance music) behind it.

The dancing involves a shocking amount of deep knee bends!

“Don’t Care Where You From” opens with a cool synth rhythm and then sung in English.  It’s fun watching Walaa Sbeit walk around with the bass drum slung over his shoulder as he does some dancing while playing.  The song is one of inclusion

Well you might be from Philly (?) or Tripoli / from the mountains or from the sea
maybe got the key to the city / don’t mean anything to me.

They don’t care where you’re from, it’s where you are that counts.

47SOUL’s message of equality, heard here at the Tiny Desk (and on the group’s current album, Balfron Promise) is meant for all the world. This is music without borders, mixing old and new, acoustic and electronic from a band formed in Amman Jordan, singing in Arabic and English. It’s one big, positive and poignant party.

It segues into “Jerusalem” with the controversial-sounding lyric: “Jerusalem is a prison of philosophy and religion.”  The middle of the song had an Arabic rap which sounds more gangster than any gangster rap.  The end of the song is an electronic dance as everybody gets into it–clapping along and banging on drums.

It’s pretty great. I hope they tour around here, I’d love to see them live.

[READ: August 27, 2019] Submarine

I saw this book on the shelf and was attracted by its busy cover.  I also thought the authors name sounded familiar.   And so it was.  I have read some of Dunthorne’s poems in Five Dials magazines.

This was his first novel.  And it sounded unusual.  The back cover had this excerpt:

I used to write questionnaires for my parents. I wanted to get to know them better.  I asked things like:

What hereditary illnesses am I likely to inherit?
What money and land am I likely to inherit?

Multiple choice:
If you child was adopted at what aged would you choose to tell him about his real mother?
a) 4-8
B) 9-14
C) 15-18

Dunthorne is from Wales, which made this story a little exotic as well.  It is set in Swansea, by the sea (where people surf!) (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: GOLDEN DAWN ARKESTRA-Tiny Desk Concert #761 (June 29, 2018).

They came marching in from off stage in robes and masks, with instruments and face paint, in more colors than have ever been in one place.

And they began the first song with a cacophony of keyboards and percussion before playing the discofied funk of “Children of the Sun.”

There’s horns from “Malika” (Sarah Malika Boudissa–Baritone Sax, Vocals), and “Zumbi” (Chris Richards–Trombone, Vocals) who set the melody going while the percussion from “Lost In Face” (Rob Kidd–Drums–who does indeed have a mask covering his face) and “Oso the Great” (Alex Marrero-Percussion) keeps things moving.

There’s a slowdown in the middle with just bass “Shabuki” (Greg Rhoades-Bass), and keys from the leader himself “Zapot Mgawi” (Topaz McGarrigle-Vocals, Organ, Synth).

Throughout the songs you can hear some wah wah guitar from “Yeshua Villon” (Josh Perdue-Guitar) and vibes–a persistent instrument which sounds otherworldly and perfect.  They come from “Isis of Devices” (Laura Scarborough-Vocals, Vibraphone).  Behind her, dancing throughout the song is “Rosietoes” (Christinah Rose Barnett-Vocals, Tambourine).

So what do we know about this band?

The blurb says:

It was a late night at an unfamiliar club in Austin, Texas when the spirit, sound, lights and costumes of the Golden Dawn Arkestra put a huge, dreamy smile on my face. It took more than three years to get ten of the players and performers in this band (there are often even more) to my desk. I tried to transform the bright daylight of the NPR office with some of my handy, previously used holiday laser lights. But honestly, it wasn’t until their psychedelic jazz kicked in that the office transformation felt real. Band leader, Topaz squawked through his megaphone to join them on their journey, while singing “Children of the Sun.”

Topaz told me that the band’s inspiration for both the name and the spirit of the musicians is loosely based on the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. The organization, devoted to the study of the occult and paranormal activities, has been around since the 19th century.

Both of Topaz’s parents were heavily into spiritual movements and what happens here falls somewhere between high art and a circus, with music that feels connected to Sun Ra’s jazz, the extended musical adventures of The Doors and the surprise elements of Parliament-Funkadelic. You can dance and/or trance, or sit back and enjoy the spectacle.

Before “The Wolf” he apologizes for an outbreak of cold on their planet.  But he wants to remind us that we are all human beings from the same planet and that we are all from stardust and vibrations. Together we can change the planet.

We would like there to be more light and love in the universe.  We must all stand together.  This is our fight song for that.

It moves quickly with the horns playing away and t he percussion flying.

The final song “Masakayli” opens with bongos from “Oso the Great” and clapping from everyone (including the audience).  The horn melody sounds a lot the theme from S.W.A.T. (there’s nothing wrong with that).  I feel like the guitar was kind of quiet through the other songs, but you can really hear “Yeshua Villon” on this one, especially the guitar solo.

This song ends with the jamming circus atmosphere that really takes off with a trippy keyboard solo from Topaz as “Rosietoes” plays with a light up hula hoop and “Zumbi” parades through the audience trying to get everyone hyped up.

It’s a tremendous spectacle and should bring a smile to your face.  Next time these guys are in town, I’m there.

[READ: February 2, 2018] “Always Another Word”

These are the same remarks that were included in Five Dials Issue Number 10.

But since it has been some time since I posted them and since I am being a completist here, and since it has been nine years since Infinite Summer, I’ll cover these four in somewhat more details

Michael Pietsch
speaks about being DFW’s editor. He says that Dave loved to communicate through letters and “the phone messages left on the office answering machine hours after everyone had departed.”  He says he loved Dave’s letters and tore into them hungrily.  He gives examples of some communiques about cuts and edits of Infinite Jest.

I cut this and have now come back an hour later and put it back

Michael, have mercy.  Pending and almost Horacianly persuasive rationale on your part, my canines are bared on this one.

He continues that David’s love affair with English was a great romance of our time.  How he was so excited to be selected to the American Heritage Dictionary‘s Usage panel. But that was surpassed by his own mother’s excitement about it,

Michael thinks he may have tried to use every word in the dictionary at least once.  When he, Michael, suggested a book that opened with the word “picric,” David’s instant response was “I already used that!.”

Zadie Smith
addresses the critics of BIWHM who thought the book was an ironic look at misogyny. She felt it was more like a gift.  And the result of two gifts.  A MacArthur Genius grant and a talent so great it confused people.  His literary preoccupation was the moment the ego disappears and you’re able offer your love as a gift without expectation of reward.

She says that she taught students to read BIWHM alongside Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling.

The most impassioned recommendation he gave her was Brain Moore’s Catholics, a novella about a priest who is no longer capable of prayer. Don’t think of David as a God-botherer–think of it as ultimate value.

You get to decide what you worship, but nine time out of ten it turns out to be ourselves.

For David, Love was the ultimate value, the absurd, the impossible thing worth praying for.

George Saunders
speaks of reading BIWHM and finding that it did strange things to his mind and body.  He says it was like if you were standing outdoors and all of your clothes were stripped away and you had super-sensitive skin and you were susceptible to the weather whatever it might be–on a sunny day you would feel hotter; a blizzard would sting.

The reading woke him up, made him feel more vulnerable, more alive.  And yet the writer of these works was one of the sweetest, most generous dearest people he’d ever known.

He met Dave at the home of mutual friend in Syracuse.  While he feared that Dave would be engaged in a conversation about Camus, and he would feel humiliated, Dave was wearing a Mighty Mouse T-shirt and talked about George and his family, asking all about them.

Saunders says that in time the grief of his passing will be replaced by a deepening awareness of what a treasure we have in the existing work.  The disaster of his loss will fade and be replaced by the realization of what a miracle it was that he ever existed in the first place.   But for now there is just grief.

For now, keep alive the lesson of his work:

Mostly we’re asleep but we can wake up. And waking up is not only possible, it is our birthright and our nature and, as Dave showed us, we can help one another do it.

Don DeLillo
says that Dave’s works tends to reconcile what is difficult and consequential with what is youthful, unstudied and often funny.  There are sentences that shoot rays of energy in seven directions.

It’s hard to believe that in September, he will be dead ten years.

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herecoverSOUNDTRACK: CHRISTOPHER PAUL STELLING-Tiny Desk Concert #453 (July 6, 2015).

cpsSomehow after 450 some Tiny Desk Concerts I feel like I’ll know anyone that comes along.  But here’s yet another performer who I’d never heard of.  Christopher Paul Stelling plays an old beat up guitar (it ha a hole in it from where it has been worn down.  According to the NPR site:  That guitar, bought in Asheville, looks like a well-worn friend, with its dark bruised wood and his initials hand-carved into its body. Stelling marked the instrument a year after he bought it, when he made New York City his home in 2007.

Stelling plays some amazing fingerpicking and he backs it up with some catchy songs and interesting lyrics.  His voice is rough and reminds me a but of The Tallest Man on Earth.

He plays four songs.  The first “Castle,” is a really enjoyably folky song. His guitar work is amazing and almost as interesting as his lyrics (there’s some nice little twists i the words he sings). I was also amazed at how good the guitar sounded with the holes and carvings and all.

“Scarecrow” is more mellow, a bit sadder.  And when he tunes it up you can hear the resistance in the tuning pegs–that guitar has been through a lot.

“Horse” is a much faster completely intense song.  As the NPR site describes it: “Watch him lean in as if he’s about to lunge, his eyes bugged out, sometimes rolled back in his head revealing just the whites, skin blood-red, voice like a preacher on fire.”  The song is majorly intense, althouhg he kind of reminds me a bit of Chris Pratt’s character on P&R (but not in a funny way).  After the song he he says you see why I didn’t play that first

“Warm Enemy” reminds me of the guitar style of RT. A wild picking song, with some great runs throughout the piece.

It’s always cool to hear of a new artist who is really impressive.

[READ: May 10, 2015] Here

I read about this book when Five Dials devoted an entire issue to it.  And I’m so glad they did, because I probably wouldn’t have heard it about it elsewhere.  And it is fantastic.

In the Five Dials issue they talked about how McGuire had first created a version of this book many years ago–it was 8 pages and ran in Raw Magazine.  Now in 2014, he has redesigned and thoroughly expanded the book, adding color and a ton more information.  And it is really astonishing.

The book itself is quite simple.  We see a scene in a house.  It is a living room.  There is a window to the left, a fireplace to the right and various pieces of furniture.

The first page in the upper left corner says 2014.  There is a couch and little else.  Then there is a bookshelf.  And then the scene jumps back to 1957.  Same location, same angle, but (nearly) everything is different.  The furniture is chanced, there is wallpaper on the walls, there is a playpen in the center of the room.  Then the next page jumps back to 1942: the color scheme is maroon.

here3After a few pages it heads back to 1957 and we see our first person.  A woman saying “Now why did I come in here again?”  And then, the first break with the style–in the bottom right is a tiny box that says 1999 and there’s a cat in it.  And then the next page plays with things even more.  The woman from 1957 is still there as is the cat (who is licking her paw now), but the background is 1623 and the “house” is simply the woods.

The next page shows a scene from 1989 and in 1999 the cat leaves the room.

here2I’m not going to tell every page, obviously, but suffice to say that the next page goes all the way back to 8,000 BCE (while leaving the scene from 1989 in the book).

We see shots from 1763 (a lumberjack) and 1764 (a house being built).  And then in 1775 a colonial scene with, I believe, Ben Franklin.

here5Occasionally, there are a series of frames that show time passing in sequence like the children sitting on the couch in 1959, 1962, 1964, 1969, 1979 and 1983.  Or the one that shows Halloween parties from several years all on one page

The book also goes into the future with a small box showing 2017 and then 2050 with some interesting technology.  And then later forward to 10,175 with a strange creature in a wasteland,

The book is really amazing.  So much fun to look at and imagine the lives that were in this house.

For there is no plot. There is virtually no dialogue.  It is just snapshot after snapshot of a place and what people and creatures have done to it throughout history.  It is such an interesting idea (the original was quite revolutionary at least according to cartoonists) and while similar pieces have been made they don’t compare to the scope of this one.

Incidentally, the house is in Perth Amboy, New Jersey (and I believe is his childhood home).  It offers actual historical data as well as imagined information.  But he based many of his designs on photos from his family’s albums.

I’m so happy I got to look at the book.  And when I read it again, I’m going to try and read it in a vaguely sequential style just to see if there is a “story” to it.

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page_1_thumb_largeSOUNDTRACK: FANTASTIC NEGRITO-Tiny Desk Concert #425 (March 9, 2015).

fannegFantastic Negrito won the Tiny Desk Concert.  And now he gets a chance to play behind the desk for real.

He plays three songs (and looks amazingly dapper).  “Lost in a Crowd” is the song that won, and it sounds even better here–that live vibe really makes it shine.  I love that the drummer plays on a box, just like in the video.

He introduces this song by talking about the coma he was in (his life story is fascinating) and how everything was topsy turvy.  “Night Has Turned To Day” has a real soulful quality, with Negrito hitting some real James Brown wails.  I also like the way he gets the band to do “two times.”

“An Honest Man” is another great song with a fantastic blue chorus.  I also enjoyed the lyric: “I’m in love agin this time it’s not with my hand.”

The band sounds great–acoustic guitar, upright bass and keyboards, and yes, the drummer does get to move to the kit for the last two songs.

While I’m sure there were lots of other great bands deserving to win a Tiny Desk show, I think they made a good choice with Negrito.  he plays a style of music I wouldn’t normally listen to, and he does a great job with it.  I hope he gets a record out.

[READ: April 7, 2015] Five Dials Number 35

Five Dials Number 35 differs in many, many, many ways from the other issues.

First, it is almost entirely art.  Second it is devoted entirely to one artist.  In light of this, many of the pictures are full page sideways which means that the printing is different (this one is really best looked at online).

On page 54, there is an essay about the making of From Here to Here(more…)

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5dials34SOUNDTRACK: MATT HAIMOVITZ & CHRISTOPHER O’RILEY-Tiny Desk Concert #426 (March 14, 2015).

matthThere’s no introduction or fanfare for cellist Matt Haimovitz and pianist Christopher O’Riley’s Tiny Desk set.  They just start right in with a romping Beethoven piece.   I don’t know these two, but the notes say the duo has a new album out called Shuffle.Play.Listen., in which music by Stravinsky and Astor Piazzolla mingles with Cocteau Twins and Arcade Fire.  There’s no contemporary music in this set, but it’s very cool nonetheless.

The Beethoven piece sounds alive and wild and very modern.  The Glass piece is slow and beautiful  The final piece is lively and playful (with hints of darkness).  It introduced as reminding O’Riley of a scene in The Unbearable Lightness of Being when Daniel Day-Lewis gets a quickie.

It’s especially fun to watch how animated Haimovitz is.  The set list:

  • Beethoven: Cello Sonata No. 4 in C – IV. Allegro vivace
  • Philip Glass/Foday Musa Suso: The Orchard
  • Leoš Janáček: Pohádka – II. Con moto

[READ: April 6, 2015] Five Dials 33 Part II

After several themed issues of Five Dials we get back to the ones that I really like–random things thrown together under a tenuous idea.  It’s got some great authors and a surprising amount of large scale doodles–full page scribbles and some drawings that go from one page to the next (which works better online than in print).  Some of the giant illustrations also are fun–they are of jokey images like a memory stick that states I have only memories.  The art was done by JODY BARTON.

As with a previous issue there is a page of contributors and “The Unable to Contribute Page.”  These are journalists unfairly imprisoned (see more at cpr.org).  The Table of Contents is back, along with the FAQ: (more…)

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5dails33bSOUNDTRACK: PUNCH BROTHERS-Tiny Desk Concert #427 (March 16, 2015).

punchtinyIt is Chris Thile’s birthday and Bob and the gang brought him a cake, and Chris seems so genuinely touched, it is adorable.

Bob explains that they usually don’t invite artists back more than once but Chris has been on Tiny Desk four times by having five different “groups.” (Chris Thile And Michael Daves; Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer, Chris Thile And Stuart Duncan; Nickel Creek and now Punch Brothers).

I had heard of Punch Brothers, but didn’t know them.  I instantly became a fan after watching Chris’ great mandolin playing and his familiar but always interesting voice. The rest of the brothers provide great harmonies and lots and lots of strings (violin, bass, banjo and guitar).  They play four songs, “My Oh My,” a great, fun original and a traditional song “Boll Weevil” which is a rollicking fast fun bluegrass song.  “Magnet” is a “fairly debauched song,” which is even more rollick and more fun.  And Chris’ visuals during the song are very funny.

The final song is longer and much slower.  “Julep” is a mellow song with nice harmonies and delicate playing.  This Tiny Desk Concert really showcases how diverse this band is and I’m really interested to hear more.

[READ: April 5, 2015] Five Dials 33 Part II

Five Dials Number 33 Part 1 was dedicated to women and part II, the more substantial of the two, continues that theme.  And it features illustrations by Melanie Amaral.

The issue opens with a Centenary Appreciation of Marguerite Duras, the ultimate writer of euphoria and despair.  I don’t know much about her although I am familiar with her titles The Lover and Hiroshima mon Amour.

There are brief accolades from SUSANA MEDINA; OLIVIA LAING; DEOBRAH LEVY; AGATA PYZIK; JOANNA WALSH; CARI LUNA; ZOE PILGER; SUZANNE JOINSON; MARINA WARNER and EMMA WILSON all of which makes me think I should stop reading Five Dials and read Duras. (more…)

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5dails33SOUNDTRACK: ANONYMOUS 4 and BRUCE MOLSKY-Tiny Desk Concert #428 (March 28, 2015).

anon4I first heard about Anonymous 4 way back in 1990 when they started.  I even have their debut album of lovely classical a capella.  Now, twenty-five years and twenty-one albums later they are calling it quits.

Their final album is 1865, released to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War. and containing songs from that era.

They sing three songs and, unusual as far as I’m concerned, they accompanied by Bruce Molsky, who plays banjo and violin and sings on “Hard Times.”  His voice mixes very well with their higher register–and they can hit some really high notes.

It’s unexpected to hear these singers whom I associate with classical music, singing these “traditional” songs.  But they do a wonderful job.

  • Listen to the Mocking Bird (Richard Milburn, Alice Hawthorne)
  • Hard Times Come Again No More (Stephen Foster)
  • Home, Sweet Home/Polly Put The Kettle On (Henry Bishop, John Howard Payne/Trad.)

As the site explains, the group is original members Ruth Cunningham, Marsha Genensky and Susan Hellauer, plus Jacqueline Horner-Kwiatek along with singer, banjo player and fiddler Bruce Molsky, who also appears on the album.

You can watch it here.

[READ: April 4, 2015] Five Dials 33 part I

This issue celebrates the Port Eliot Festival in Cornwall and features illustrations by: Cari Vander Yacht.  They are cool colorful colored pencil drawings sprinkled throughout the issue.  Most of them are vaguely alien creatures sitting around, shopping, doing a head stand (or break dancing).  You know, as aliens do.

Rather than a letter from the editor, we get a link entitled What’s this issue all about?  It is a link to a Guardian article about #readwomen2014 asking Will #readwomen2014 change our sexist reading habits?  Of course, it is now 2015 and I missed the whole thing.  I wonder if it did. (more…)

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