Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Review of Contemporary Fiction’ Category

dfwreadSOUNDTRACK: CHRISTIAN SCOTT aTUNDE ADJUAH-Tiny Desk Concert #477 (October 9, 2015).

aacsChristian Scott aTunde Adjuah and his septet play what he calls stretch music: “the particular type of jazz fusion he’s up to: something more seamless than a simple collision of genre signifiers.”

They note that even his appearance stretches traditional jazz: “You may note that he showed up in a Joy Division sleeveless T-shirt and gold chain.” It’s sleek and clearly modern, awash in guitar riffs, but also bold and emotionally naked.

Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah (not sure how to abbreviate that) is a trumpeter and he can hit some loud powerful and long –held notes.   It’s funny that when he bends over the trumpet grows quieter—those ic really are direction-based.

For the first song “TWIN” he does some impressive soloing over a simple and cool beat—piano and delicate guitar riffs (there’s also an upright bass and drummer).   After his lengthy solo there’s a flute solo that also works perfectly (if less dramatically) with the background music.  (Christian plays tambourine during her solo).  He says that this song is about being a twin.  His brother, Kyle Scott is a film director and for whom Christians scores the music.  Christian also explains that he comes from an African-American and Native-American background and that this song has rhythms as a sort of history of his family that touches on Mali, Senegal Gambia and The Ivory Coast and makes its way to the Caribbean, Cuba and into New Orleans.

He’s pleased to play the Tiny Desk Concert for an audience that appreciates “Music that has nutritional value.”

For the second song, “West of the West” he brings on a young alto-saxophonist who plays with his drummer in a different band. The song opens with a rocking electric guitar solo and then the jazzy band kicks in behind it.  The instrumental features a couple of solos by the saxophonist, the pianist and the bassist.

“K.K.P.D.” is a dramatic song for which he gives a lengthy back story.  Many years ago in his home of New Orleans, he was stopped by New Orleans police late at night for no reason other than to harass and intimidate him.  he was coming back from a gig.  He resisted and was in a serious situation and was seriously threatened—the story is long and very affecting, especially given how articulate (I know, terrible word, but true) and calm he is about retelling this horrifying story.  His pride almost made him do something ill-advised, but instead he channeled that pent-up frustration into a piece of music whose long-form title is “Ku Klux Police Department.”

He adds that we see things on TV about inner cities or the ninth ward and we believe them to be true.  Like that the neighborhood is happy that the police are clearing out the youth there.  We begin to think that the narrative is true, although the people who live there can tell you otherwise.  Despite the title and the origin, the is song is designed to reach a consensus to move forward –not to build derision or hate.  He says that we have to start working on that now, because if it doesn’t start now then our children will continue to inherit this situation.

It opens with a noisy guitar wash and fast drums.  It’s quite noisy and chaotic although it resolves very nicely into an almost sweet piano-based song with slow horns.  The middle of the song ramps up with some intense soloing from Christian.  I love how that segues into a very different section with an electronic drum and delicate piano.  Chritsian’s next solo is much more optimistic.  The final section is just wonderfully catchy.

When he introduces the band, he points out just how young some of his newest members are: Drummer Corey Fonville (another new member) used a djembe as a bass drum, and also brought a MIDI pad so he could emulate the sound of a drum machine; Lawrence Fields, piano; Kris Funn, bass; Dominic Minix , guitar (21 years old); Braxton Cook, saxophone (24 years-old) and Elena Pinderhughes, flute: 20 years old!

I don’t listen to a ton of jazz, but I really liked this Tiny Desk Concert a lot.

[READ: July-October 2016] The David Foster Wallace Reader

I’ve had this book since Sarah bought it for me for Christmas in 2014.  I haven’t been in a huge hurry to read it because I have read almost everything in it already.  And some of that I have even read recently.  But this summer I decided to read some of my bigger books, so this was a good time as any.

One of the fascinating things about reading this book is the excerpting in the fiction section.  I have never really read excerpts from DFWs longer books before.  And once you decontextualize the parts, you can really appreciate them for themselves rather than as a means to the end of the story.  This is especially true of the excerpts from Broom of the System and Infinite Jest.  But also just reading some of these sections as a short story makes for an interesting experience.

It was also very interesting to read the non-fiction all together like that.  These pieces come from difference anthologies, but they have thematic similarities  So, placing them together like that allows for really comparing the stories.

And of course, the selling point for most DFW fans is the teaching materials in the center of the book–an opportunity to look into the man’s mind at work shaping younger minds.

I have written about virtually everything in this book already (title links refer back to previous posts), so mostly these are thoughts about the pieces themselves and not a part of a whole. (more…)

Read Full Post »

bothfleshSOUNDTRACK: SIGUR RÓS-Von brigði [Recycle Bin] (1998).

recycleAfter releasing their first album, Sigur Rós was approached by Icelandic musicians to remix the album. And thus came Recycle Bin.  I realized too late that I really just don’t like remix albums all that much–they’re mostly just faster drums plopped on top of existing songs.  And such is the case here.  Despite the interesting musical pedigrees of the remixers, there’s nothing anywhere near as interesting as on Von itself.  There are ten tracks, but only 5 songs.

”Syndir Guðs” gets two remixes:

Biogen keeps the bass but adds some more drumlike sounds.

Múm removes the bass, adds some wild drums and trippy textures and reduces the 7 minutes to 5.  It is quite pretty but very far from the original.

“Leit að lífi” gets three remixes

Plasmic takes a spacey 3 minute wordless noodle and turns it into a heavy fast dance song with speedy drums, big bass notes and with spacey sounds.

Thor brings in some fast skittery drums and keeps the spacey sounds (which sound sped up).  And of course bigger bass noises.

Sigur Rós recycle their own song into a dance song by adding funky bass and drums.

“Myrkur” gets two remixes.  the original is a fast-paced groovy track.

Ilo begins it as a spacey non-musical sounding piece.  After two minutes they add a beat of very mechanical-sounding drums.  It’s probably the most interesting remix here.

Dirty-Bix adds big, slow drums.  It keeps the same melody and vocals as the original but totally changes the rhythm and texture of the song, (removing the guitar completely).

The remaining three songs get one remix each.

The original “18 Sekúndur Fyrir Sólarupprás” is 18 seconds of silence.  Curver turns it into “180 Sekúndur Fyrir Sólarupprás” and makes a muffled drum beat and some other samples from the album, I think.  It constantly sounds like it is glitching apart until the end where it practically disintegrates–an interesting remix of silence.

“Hún Jörð” 7 min Hassbræður increases the drums and adds a more buzzsaw guitar sound and makes the vocals stand out a bit more.

“Von” has delicate strings and Jónsi voice.  The remix by Gusgus adds low end bass and drums making it a thumping rather than soaring track.

I prefer the original, but I much prefer their next album to the first one.

[READ: end of October to early November 2013]  original articles that comprise Both Flesh and Not

As I mentioned last week, I decided to compare the articles in Both Flesh and Not with the original publications to see what the differences were.  I had done this before with A Supposedly Fun Thing… and that was interesting and enlightening (about the editing process).

This time around the book has a lot more information than the original articles did.  Although as I come to understand it, the original DFW submitted article is likely what is being printed in the book with all of the editing done by the magazine (presumably with DFW’s approval).  So basically, if you had read the original articles and figured you didn’t need the book, this is what you’re missing.

Quite a lot of the changes are word choice changes (this seems to belie the idea that DFW approved the changes as they are often one word changes).  Most of the changes are dropped footnotes (at least in one article) or whole sections chopped out (in others).

For the most part the changes were that the book version added things that were left out or more likely removed from the article.  If the addition in the book is more than a sentence, I only include the first few words as I assume most readers have the book and can find it for themselves.  The way to read the construct below is that most of the time the first quote is from the original article.  The second quote is how it appears in Both Flesh and Not.  At the end of each bullet, I have put in parentheses the page in BFAN where you’ll find it.  I don’t include the page number of the article.  And when I specifically mention a footnote (FN 1, for example), I am referring to the book as many times the articles drop footnotes and they are not always in sync.

Note: I tried most of the time to put quotes around the text, but man is that labor intensive, so if I forgot, it’s not meant to be anything significant. (more…)

Read Full Post »

contficSOUNDTRACKTHAO NGUYEN-Tiny Desk Concert #5 (September 4, 2008).

thaoI had never heard of Thao Ngyuen (who admits that her last name is a phonetic disaster–it’s pronounced When) before this concert and man is she a lot of fun.

  She plays a great acoustic guitar—very percussive on the strings (and even some percussive noises from her mouth before the first song starts).  Her voice is a strange mix of a few singers, reminding me a bit of Björk (but with a kind of Southern sounding accent) and maybe Beth Orton, if Beth was a bit more excited.   Thao plays her guitar very loosely—a kind of sloppiness that is really fun—but not in a “she can’t really play” way.  It’s an I’m having a lot of fun style.

NPR dude Mike Katzif heard her band Get Down Stay Down opening for another band.  And he loved her off-kilter melodies (which are ample).  “Bag of Hammers” is played on the high strings and it has an almost Caribbean feel—boppy and fun and totally made for dancing. Her guitar playing is very fast strumming, especially on “Beat (Health, Life and Fire),” I love watching the chords she is playing up and down the neck of the guitar.

I really enjoyed the conceit of “Big Kid Table” and the Hawaiian vibe she gets from her guitar.  “Feet Asleep” brings out a bit more of a country vibe from her singing (she is from Virginia).  I love the diversity of her music and I’m looking forward to checking out both her band and her solo work. In addition to being a great singer and songwriter, she is also quite funny—the story about her grandma and her calves is very funny indeed.

This continues the greatness of the Tiny Desk concerts.

[READ: November 14, 2013]  “The Empty Plenum”

The reason I got involved with Wittgenstein’s Halloween was because David Foster Wallace had said Wittgenstein’s Mistress was one of the best books of the 1990s.

The whole list is on Salon, but here’s the quote about WM:

“Wittgenstein’s Mistress” by David Markson (1988)
“W’s M” is a dramatic rendering of what it would be like to live in the sort of universe described by logical atomism. A monologue, formally very odd, mostly one-sentence ¶s. Tied with “Omensetter’s Luck” for the all-time best U.S. book about human loneliness. These wouldnt constitute ringing endorsements if they didnt happen all to be simultaneously true — i.e., that a novel this abstract and erudite and avant-garde that could also be so moving makes “Wittgenstein’s Mistress” pretty much the high point of experimental fiction in this country.

I had also read his review of the book before [I copy everything I said then below].  I admit I didn’t get that much out of it before because it was mostly about Wittgenstein and a book I hadn’t read.  Well, now that I’ve read the Markson book, it seemed like a good time to revisit the review.

Two things strike me immediately–this was written after Wallace had written Broom of the System and some other fiction and yet he speaks of himself as a “would-be writer,” not a writer.  And two, this review really belongs in a philosophy journal rather than a literary journal–DFW was making the jump from philosophy to literature, but his knowledge of philosophy is very strong, so he is focusing on that aspect of the story. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: BLACK FLAG: The Process of Weeding Out (1985).

Fans of Black Flag were (justifiably) freaked out by this EP.  It’s a four songs that clock in at almost 30 minutes (from the band who gave us the one-minute long hit “Wasted”).

This album is all instrumental and it provided Greg Ginn yet another outlet for his experimental guitar workouts (see also: Gone, October Faction, Saccharine Trust, Tom Troccoli’s Dog etc.)

So what you get is Kira’s fantastic and unusual bass riffs (she did amazing work with Black Flag), Bill Stevenson’s intense (and cymbal fueled) drums and Greg Ginn’s what the hell? guitars.  I’ve always found Ginn’s guitar work to be somewhat off.  It always struck me that maybe he didn’t exactly know how to play the guitar.  And yet he was always right on with his riffs and chords, it’s just that his solos never conformed to any standard version of guitar solo I’d ever heard.

So this EP comes across more as fee jazz than punk.  “Your Last Affront” is 9 minutes of chaos all under-girded by an interesting if unconventional riff.  It’s followed by the two-minute “Screw the Law” a much faster song, with an intense riff repeated for much of it.  The last 30 seconds or so has some screaming solos from Ginn, but of all the tracks, this is probably the most user-friendly.

The second side has the title track starts with a lengthy solo from Ginn.  A few minutes in, Stevenson’s drums come clacking around the place and Kira is somewhat relegated to the back as her bass is steady but not that exciting.  Until about 3 and a half minutes in, when the band takes over and Kira plays a super cool riff and when Ginn joins in, the song is really solid.  “Southern Rise” ends the disc with 5 minutes of relative quiet.  Although the main instrument appears to be the drums.

The whole things sounds like they were jamming in Greg’s garage.  And I’ll bet lots of fun was had in that garage.

[READ: March 15, 2011] three items about what didn’t make it into Infinite Jest

In honor of The Pale King’s release this week, I’m doing this post on Infinite Jest-related stuff.  This is all of the stuff that we lay people have access to without going to the Wallace archives to find all of the cool DFW stuff.

After finishing IJ this summer, I found out that it was initially much much longer (I think around 300 pages longer).  I grew mildly obsessed with wondering what had gotten cut.  And I had to wonder, if you have an 1100 page book, what difference would an extra 500 pages make, really?  Initially, I thought that the things that were cut were just minor changes, but then I heard about fairly large things that were removed.  And I dreamed of a “director’s cut” of the book.  That will never happen, and that’s fine (I’m less obsessed now).  But these little glimpses into scenes that didn’t make the book are fascinating.

And all told, they confirm that most of the cuts were minor, although there were some large scenes that were left on the cutting room floor. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: PJ HARVEY-4-Track Demos (1993).

After the intensity of the Steve Albini produced Rid of Me, Harvey releases this collection of demos.  The amazing thing is that these versions actually seem more intense than the Albini version. Or if not more intense, then certainly more raw.

The songs definitely have an unfinished feel about them, and yet they only vary from the final version in polish (and Albini’s stamp).

“Rid of Me” is just as quiet/loud, and has those high-pitched (and scary) backing vocals.  Speaking of scary vocals, her lead screams in “Legs” are far scarier here than on Rid of Me–like really creepy.  (Which sort of undermines that idea that this was released because Rid of Me was too intense for fans).   “Snake” actually features even creepier vocals–Harvey must have had a field day making these sounds!

I admit that I like the finished version of “50 Ft Queenie” better,”but there’s something about this version of “Yuri-G” that I like better.

The disc also has some tracks unreleased elsewhere.  “Reeling” is an organ-propelled song of female strength with the nice lyric: “Robert DeNiro sit on my face.”  “Hardly Wait” is a slow grinder that is fairly quiet for this time period.  “M-Bike” is a cool angry rocker about a guy and his motorcycle which is one of my favorite tracks on the disc.

It’s a great companion to Rid of Me.

[READ: end of February to early March]  original articles that comprise A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again

As I mentioned last week, I decided to compare the articles in A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again with the original publications to see what the differences were.  It quickly became obvious that there were a lot of additions to most of the articles, and it seems rather pointless (well, actually it seems exhausting and really outrageously time-consuming) to mention them all.  But what I did want to note was the things that are in the articles that have been removed from the book.   There’s not a lot but there are a few juicy tidbits (especially in the early articles) that are fun to note for anyone who read only the book and not the original articles.

My process for this was rather unthorough: I read the article and then right afterward I read the book.  If I noticed any changes, I made a note on the article version.  Many of them were surprisingly easy to note as DFW’s writing style (especially his idiosyncratic phrases) really stand out.  This is especially true in the Harper’s articles.  The academic ones were less notable, I believe, and I’m sure I missed a bunch.

I’m not sure in any way how these pieces were dealt with initially by the magazine or DFW.  I assume that DFW handed in the larger article (like we see in the book) and the magazine made suggested edits and DFW edited accordingly.  Then the book copies are probably the originals, bt which have also been updated in some way.

In most cases, it’s not really worth reading the original article, but I’m including links (thanks Howling Fantods), for the curious.

As for length, it’s hard to know exactly what the conversion from magazine article to book is.  The “Tornado Alley” tennis article is 8 pages (more like 4 pages when you take out the ads) and the book is 17.  Perhaps more accurately it seems like one Harper’s column = just under one book page.  I’ll try to figure out what the conversion is if I can.

One last note, whenever I say “article” I mean the original magazine version.  And obviously “book” means ASFTINDA. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: PJ HARVEY-Rid of Me (1993).

For Rid of Me, PJ Harvey jumped to the big leagues (relatively) by enlisting maniac Steve Albini as a producer.  And he takes the rawness of Dry one step further into a sound that is both raw and sharp.  He really highlights the differences between the highs and lows, the louds and quiets.  And man, when this came out I loved it.

Like NIN’s “March of the Pigs,” the opening of “Rid Of Me” is so quiet that you have to crank up the song really loud.  And then it simply blasts out of the speakers after two quiet verses.

“Legs” turns Harvey’s moan into a voice of distress, really accentuating the hurt in her voice.  And Harvey hasn’t lightened up her attitudes since Dry, especially in the song “Dry” which has the wonderfully disparaging chorus: “You leave me dry.”

“Rub Til It Bleeds” is a simple song that opens with a few guitars and drums but in true Albini fashion it turns into a noisy rocker.  “Man Size Quartet” is a creepy string version of the later song “Man Size” (I’ll bet the two together would sound great).  And the wonderful “Me Jane” is a great mix of rocking guitars and crazy guitar skronk.   Albini really highlights the high-pitched (male) backing vocals, which add an element of creepiness that is very cool.

For me the highlight is “50 Foot Queenie”.  It just absolutely rocks the house from start to finish.  The song is amazing, from the powerful…well…everything including the amazing guitar solo.  “Snake” is a fast rocker (all of 90 seconds long) and “Ecstasy” is a song that feels wrung out, stretched to capacity, like they’ve got nothing left.

It’s not an easy record by any means, but it is very rewarding.  This is a CD that really calls for reamastering.  Because it is too quiet by half, and could really use–not a change in production–just an aural boost.

[READ: end of February and beginning of March] A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again

This is a collection of 7 essays that DFW wrote from 1990-1996.  Three were published in Harper’s, two in academic journals, one in Esquire and the last in Premiere.  I devoured this book when it came out (I had adored “Shipping Out” when it was published in Harper’s) and even saw DFW read in Boston (where he signed my copy!).

click to see larger

[Does anyone who was at the reading in Harvard Square…in the Brattle Theater I THINK…remember what excerpts he read?]

The epigram about these articles states: “The following essays have appeared previously (in somewhat different [and sometimes way shorter] forms:)”  It was the “way shorter” that intrigued me enough to check out the originals and compare them to the book versions.  Next week, I’ll be writing a post that compares the two versions, especially focusing on things that are in the articles but NOT in the book (WHA??).

But today I’m just taking about the book itself. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: THERAPY?-Lonely, Cryin’ Only [single] (1998).

I have a few Therapy? singles, but I wanted to mention this one specifically because it has two “new” recordings on it.  The first is of “Diane” the Hüsker Dü song that they first recorded on Infernal Love.  The second is of “Teethgrinder” their first “hit” off of Nurse.

I’m always intrigued when bands reinterpret their own songs, but I have to say that these two remakes are disappointing.  “Diane” is slowed down quite a lot and is very very crisp.  But it rather removes some of the creepiness of the original (and it’s a very creepy song).

As for “Teethgrinder,” the original of that song is stellar.  Any changes can only be for the worst.  And that’s the case here.  There’s so many great, weird sounds from the original (and those sounds make it wonderful) that without them, the song is fine, but nothing awesome.

Fortunately these tracks are b-sides and not really official or anything.

[READ: May 4, 2010] The Review of Contemporary Fiction

This is my first exposure to this journal.  The only reason I bought it was for the main (and only) title in the book–Damion Searls’ ; Or The Whale (which I’m reading now and will review shortly).

The rest of the journal contains Book Reviews and ads for forthcoming publications.  Since I didn’t plan to talk about that back matter in ; Or The Whale, I ‘ll do it here.

There are 22 book reviews in the back of this journal (which itself is 368 pages and only costs $8.00!).  Each book is not quite an academic book, but certainly not popular fiction or non-fiction.  There are a lot of French writers (either in translation, or of books about them).  There’s also some reviews of books that were long out of print (Robert Walser’s The Tanners and two works by Breyten Breytenbach).

The one surprise is the inclusion of a sort of meta-science fiction title by Christopher Miller called The Cardboard Universe.  It’s an encyclopedic guide to a sci-fi author whose initials are PKD. (Phoebus K. Dank–although Dank does have a fictional character called Phillip K. Dick).  It sounds great and yet it is an encyclopedic-style book of over 500 pages.  I’m just not sure if I’m up for it.

I’ll probably never read any of the books reviewed (I barely have time for the stuff I really want to read), but they all sounded interesting in one way or another.   For the entire list of books reviewed and more info on the journal, click here.

After the Book Reviews, there’s a Books Received list.  I assume this is all of the books that they were asked to review.  I wonder if they’ll review all of them?   The only author I recognized in the list was A.S. Byatt.

There’s then a few ads for like-minded publications: n+1, Chicago Review, Trickhouse, which looks fascinating, and Absinthe (new European writing).  There’s also a listing for new books from University of Delaware Press about Don DeLillo’s Underworld, Thomas Pynchons’ Mason & Dixon and William Gass’s The Tunnel (which I really ought to read as that book was a mystery to me).  There’s even critics I recognize in these essays!

The final pages are ads for forthcoming books from Dalkey Archive Press (the publishers of The Review of Contemporay Fiction).  I know Dalkey for a few obscure titles (mostly from Flann O’Brien, but others as well).  The books in this list are from the Dalkey Archive Scholarly Series and include titles like Phantasms of Matter in Gogol (and Gombrowicz); Reading Games: An Aesthetics of Play in Flann O’Brien, Samuel Beckett, and Georges Perec (which I admit sounds really interesting, but which I will likely never read).  The final title in the list is called Don’t Ever Get Famous: Essays on New York Writing after the New York School.  I’m curious about this one.  The book blurb mentions a number of writers that I’ve never heard of, so I can’t decide how to take that title.  I only wish the blurb explained it.

If I were more studious, if I worked in academics, if I didn’t read so many other things, I would definitely subscribe to this journal.  But as it stands, I’ll be just getting just this one (and maybe an occasional other one if the mood strikes me).

Read Full Post »