Archive for the ‘Aphex Twin’ Category


One thing the book does not mention is this song which is played every morning in Pyongyang at 6AM.

There’s a clip of the song being broadcast in front of Pyongyang Station here.

In this clip, the music is creepy and empty, played through exterior speakers and bouncing off of government buildings.  As one person commented, if this music had a color, it would be grey.

This recorded version, by North Korea’s most popular act, is a little different.  It’s much warmer with soft synth not unlike synthy new age from the 70s/80s.

Here’s some detail about the creators of this music (according the BBC):

The Pochonbo Electronic Ensemble were formed by Kim Jong-il in the early-80s and were the first North Korean band to use electric guitars, synthesisers and saxophone, drawing on Korean folk music, but also Chinese, Soviet and, to a smaller extent, Western pop. They take their name from the 1937 Battle of Pochonbo, in which a group of guerrillas were led by Kim Il-sung in an attack on occupying Japanese forces (yet, despite this, they have toured in Japan). They’ve released over 150 CDs.

After 2 minutes of spacey intro, the vocals come in–a big chorus of voices asking “Supreme Headquarters. Where are you? Lead us to you.”

At 3 minutes the lead vocals come in, sung by Hyon Song-wol.  The music stays much the same (with echoing sounds and trippy synths) but Hyon Song-wol’s voice soars over the top and is quite lovely as she sings unabashed propaganda wonder where their supreme general is and when he will keep them warm and safe.

For a longer essay about this mysterious wake up alarm, check out this article from nknews.

[READ: December 29, 2019] Pyongyang

I really enjoyed Delisle’s A User’s Guide to Neglectful Parenting.  It was very funny and I really liked his drawing style.  Delisle has written several other books (published by Drawn & Quarterly) and I was really excited to see this one come across my desk (it’s a 2018 printing although it doesn’t look like there’s anything added).

The introduction by director Gore Verbinsky sets the stage for what this book is.  In 2001, Delisle was allowed into North Korea to work on an animated cartoon for two months.

In animated movies, there are “key frames” which are sort of the highlight moments.  In between these key frames are where the North Korean animators draw–the in-betweens.  Canadian and Europeans (and some American) directors then supervise the completion–often trying very hard to get the animators to understand simple Western ideas.

Verbinsky says that Delisle “reduces the amplitude to get underneath the narrative and break down a belief system into something infinitely relatable.  He looks at the daily life of people existing in these “in-betweens” and looks at the citizens who “exist in a bubble of fear.”

The book was translated by Helge Dascher.

Delisle’s self-portrait character is a simply drawn man with a big nose, tiny eyes and a very expressive face. As the story opens he is at customs where they ask about the book he brought (1984–with a funny scene about that later) and his music Aphex Twin.  His driver picks him up from the airport–you don’t go anywhere in North Korea without an escort.  Delilse is shocked that the driver is smoking in than air conditioned car with the windows closed:  “Great.  I can’t breathe and I’m cold.” (more…)

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39unstopSOUNDTRACK: SLOAN-“Get Out” (2014).

Sloan_CommonwealthSloan has a new album coming out next week.  It is currently streaming on Picthfork.  The album is like a small version of the Kiss solo albums (except that there is only one album) or like Pink Floyd’s Ummagumma (because it’s a double album and one side is kinda crazy). Each member of the band has written the songs for a side.  The imagery for the disc is a deck of playing card, and each member gets a suit:  Diamond (Jay Ferguson); Heart (Chris Murphy);  Shamrock (Patrick Pentland); Spade (Andrew Scott).  Even though I am a big fan of Sloan, I have honestly never been able to tell their vocalists apart. True, they do sound distinctive, but I can’t keep them straight at all.  So this album should help with that (and maybe see if there is one composer I like better–I don’t think so).

I chose this song primarily because it seemed to tie in well with this book and also because it a rocking song that last for less than 2 minutes.

The guitar comes rocking right at the start.  The verses are short and the bridge , a simple “Get out, you can get out” propels the song along nicely.  There’s a loud squalling guitar solos.  And a cool chorus with backing vocals.  And after two verses, two bridges and two choruses, the song ends.  A great soundtrack for an escape.

I’m looking forward to the release (although I won’t be getting the deluxe edition, sorry guys).

[READ: September 4, 2014] Flashpoint

In all of my time reading the 39 Clues, this is the first time I actually caught up to the series–I read this book almost in the week that it came out.  So if I was actually playing online with the clues, I may have been able to win whatever it is the online competition is.  Actually it’s quite rare that I read anything soon after it has come out, so that was fun in itself as well.

Okay, so this series has concluded with major 39 dude Gordon Korman taking over the reins.  And that made me happy, because he knows that the family working as a team is what is so important to the series.  And he got them working together again–even if it was because Amy was days away from death by the side effects of the serum.

As the story starts out (yes, I am still bitter about what happened at the end of Book Three–and I must report that that was not redeemed in any way, so yes, I am mad at the series for the senselessness of what happened to a favorite character of mine), Dan is being held prisoner by Galt Pierce.  (I love how nutty the Patriotist party is portrayed, and how easily susceptible people are to the platitudes Rutherford Pierce offers).  He and his sister Cara are trying to extract information from Dan.  Dan is given a truth serum and reveals some information, but then he takes a sleeping potion to knock himself out.

When he awakens, Galt threatens him, but Cara tells Galt to back off.  And then, unless Dan is mistaken, and he may be, she seems to help him escape from the plane that they are currently waiting in.  At the same time, Jonah Wizard’s plane is nearby (through some clever tracking by Pony), and they are able to rescue Dan.  Then they are off to Phenom Penh to find the final ingredient–the venom form a Tonle Sap snake.  Which means a trip through the amazingness that is Angkor Wat (more…)

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39copuntSOUNDTRACK: APHEX TWIN-“minipops 67 [120.2]” (2014).

syroI can’t write the whole title of this because the rest of the words make it seem like it is xml code, so it is not printing properly.  Well played, trickster.

Aphex Twin videos have no business being anywhere near a children’s book (even a book as dark as this).  But the music itself is pretty safe since it’s instrumental (or unintelligible vocals if there are vocals).

Anyway, this is the opening track from the first Aphex Twin album in thirteen years (really? yes!).

“Minipops” is the first single from the album (due out later this month).

It is less aggressive than what I think of as Aphex work (like say “Windowlicker”) but it is no less warped.  It opens with some complex drums and a simple but warped keyboard riff.  Some voices come in, and there may be words but I can’t make them out.

It actually feels like a kind of verse chorus build up.  Just before the half way point the music almost drops away leaving a simple keyboard and an even more processed voice.  By the three minute mark a new voice comes in, it is deeper and scarier, and it is followed by the most clean voice of all (although it is still quite fuzzy).  Again, I have no idea if words are being spoken, but there is a weird melody being vocalized.  And the music floating around seems to slowly get more and more distorted as the song lurches to an end.

It’s not my favorite Aphex Twin piece as it’s not as dynamic as some of his others, but I’m happy that he’s putting out an albums worth of stuff.

This video has no actual visuals (except what you see), so it is totally safe for all ages.

[READ: August 28, 2014] Countdown

Book Three of this series has an aspect that I really like and an aspect that I, like less

I’m starting with the part I liked less because it involves the main plot.  As we left the Cahill family in Book Two, they were in big trouble.  Rutherford Pierce had taken the super mega strong serum and his henchmen were closing in on Amy and Dan and friends wherever they went.

As this book opens Amy and Dan are racing through an airport to get to their private helicopter, when they are spotted by the paparazzi (Pierce owns the media and sends the paparazzi after them wherever they are).  On the other side of the airport are some of his serum-fueled goons, who are looking to stop them at any cost.  The kids run through the airport and make it to the helicopter just in time.

They start flying to Guatemala, where they are looking for the next ingredient for the antidote to the serum.  Suddenly the pilot puts on a  parachute and leaps from the helicopter, leaving the kids to land the plane in the Guatemalan ruins.

This was all quite exciting and I enjoyed it very much.  What I liked less was that after what happened in the last book–Amy going off on her own to spare the lives of her family and nearly getting killed–the boys are mad at her.  They barley talk to her and consider that she has betrayed them.  One of the things I have loved about the series was the bond that Amy and Dan had.  And I hate that this series has dissolved the bond and that Amy has felt like an outcast.  I understand it builds the drama and that there are many exciting elements to this approach, but it’s not what I read this series for.  I also realize that as this book draws to and end, the isolation of Amy become almost the point of this series, but it still changes the series in a way I don’t like.

After they are nearly killed, though, the kids bond again, and set off on their quest to find this missing element. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KANYE WEST-My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010).

Before buying this album I really only knew of Kanye West as a loudmouthed guy who tweeted a lot and told off George Bush.  But then everyone was raving about this album (Pitchfork gave it a 10 out of 10!).  So I decided to check it out.  And I can’t get over how great an album it is.

Now I’m going to start this review by mentioning a few things I dislike about rap as a genre.  1) I dislike all of the “guests” that appear on a record–I bought the album because for you, not your friends.  2) I dislike excessive use of “unh” and “yeah” at the beginning of a track; when you have nothing to say–let the backing music flow, save your voice for actual words.  3) Rap is still terribly misogynist and vulgar–I’ve nothing against vulgarity per se (I do have something against misogyny) but excessive use is lazy, and it stands out much more in a rap song since you’re saying the words not singing them.

The Kanye West album is guilty of all three of these things, and yet I still think it’s fantastic.  The first reason is because it goes beyond a lot of rap by introducing real musical content into the songs.  This is not an “all rap is just a beatbox” dismissal of rap, it’s an observation that rap tends to be more about the lyrics and the musical accompaniment can get kind of lazy.  West’s songs have (beautiful) choruses, strings, and samples that augment the rest of the song, as opposed to samples that ARE the song.  And Kanye West’s voice is great.  His delivery is weird and twisted, a little cocky but more funny, with a twisted attitude that is really cool–and to my rather limited palate of rappers, it’s original.

The opening of the disc “Dark Fantasy” has a chorus singing “Can we get much higher” which is catchy and cool (and is used in the promo for The Hangover 2).  The switch from this opening to the rapping works well (aside from the FOUR “yea”s).  Although I don’t love the yeahs, I love his delivery, and that he occasionally ends lines with these weird “hunh” sounds, that are wonderfully emphatic.

The guests start showing up on track 2, but even the guests can’t detract from the excellent guitars of the song (and the cool solo). And I’ll say about the guests that I like some of them, but for the most part I’d rather hear Kanye.

“Power” samples King Crimson’s, “21st Century Schizoid Man”; anyone who samples King Crimson is alright with me.  But to use it so perfectly, to make it part of your song is real genius.  It works musically as well as within the overall concept of the album.

“All of the Lights” (with the pretty piano intro) features scads of guests including John Legend, The-Dream, Elly Jackson, Alicia Keys, Fergie, Kid Cudi, Elton John (!), and Rihanna.  I can hear some of these people but not Elton John (why would he agree to be on a track where you can’t even hear him?).  It is a beautiful pop track nevertheless.

“Monster” is a monster of tracks with yet more guests (I like that some of these guests break with the typical guest, like Bon Iver (!)).  And I really like Nicki Minaj’s verse.  [I’m not familiar with her work at all (in fact I keep wanting to say Minja instead of Minaj) but her verse with the wonderfully crazy vocal styling she displays is weird and cool and very powerful–I would like to check out her solo album, but the samples I heard weren’t that interesting].  It also has a great repeated chorus of being a “motherfucking monster.”

It’s followed by the even more catchy “So Appalled” (with FIVE guest rappers–some of whom I’ve never heard of but who do a good job.  I love Cyhi da Prince’s lyrics: “I am so outrageous, I wear my pride on my sleeve like a bracelet, if God had an iPod, I’d be on his playlist”  or  “So call my lady Rosa Parks/I am nothing like them niggas baby those are marks/I met this girl on Valentine’s Day/fucked her in May/she found out about April so she chose to March” or this line, “y’all just some major haters and some math minors.”

“Devil in a New Dress” opens with a bunch of “unhs” (which I dislike) but this is nice ballad in the midst of all of the noise (and it has some clever lyrics).  It morphs right into “Runaway” one of the more audacious singles I can think of.  The piano melody is so simple (a single note to start) and the lyrics show Kanye as a loser in relationships.  It’s a surprisingly thoughtful song for a song with a chorus that goes: “Lets have a toast for the douchebags, let’s have a toast for the asshole; a toast for the scumbags every one of them that I know.  You been putting up with my shit for way too long…runaway fast as you can.”  It gets even more audacious when you realize the last 4 minutes of the song are a solo with distorted voice.  And the video…the video is 35 minutes long!

The sentiment of that song is erased by the next one, “Hell of  a Life”.  It opens with a great distorted guitar riff and lyrics about sex with a porn star.   “Blame Game” is a surprisingly honest song about being nasty to your girlfriend (“I’d rather argue with you than be with someone else”).  It features a sample of Aphex Twin’s (!) “Avril 14th”.  And it’s quite a sad but lovely track.  It ends with a very long skit by Chris Rock.  I like Chris Rock, but this dialogue is kind of creepy because the woman who Rock is talking to (about the great sex she gave him) seems to be a robotic sample–why not have an actual woman talk to him?

The final track, “Lost in the World” has a lengthy intro by an auto-tuned Bon Iver.  It’s one of my favorite tracks on the disc, especially the end, where the processed vocals get even weirder but accent the beat wonderfully.  This track morphs into what is the actual final track, “Who Will Survive in America” which is basically a long recitation from Gil-Scot Heron.  It works great as an album closer.

So, despite several things I don’t like about the disc, overall, it’s really an amazing release.  And I can overlook the few things I dislike because the rest is so solid.  I can’t decide if it’s worth looking for his earlier releases.  How can they live up to this one?

[READ: May 6, 2011] McSweeney’s #37

This is the first McSweeney’s book where I’ve had to complain about the binding.  The glue peeled off pretty quickly from the center cover.  Fortunately, the back cover held up well.  I’m guessing it’s because there’s an extra book tucked into the front cover which prevents the book from closing nicely when it’s removed.

But aside from that, the design of the cover is very cool.  It is meant to look like a book (duh), but actually like a 3-D book, so the bottom right and top left corners are cut on diagonals (this makes for a very disconcerting-looking book inside–with triangles cut across the top).  The artwork inside is also cool.  In keeping with this appearance, each two page spread looks like a book with a spine drawing in the gutter of the pages).  And the bottom of each page has lines making it look like the bottom of a book.  (The illustrated margins are by SOPHIA CARA FRYDMAN and HENRY JAMES and there are interior paintings by JONATHAN RUNCIO).

The front matter is wonderful.  Although it gives the usual publishing information, the bulk of this small print section is devoted to counteracting all the claims that the book is dead.  It offers plenty of statistics to show that not only are the public reading, they are reading more than ever.  The introduction also goes a long way towards arguing against the idea that people are reading less now than in the past.  When was this “golden age” of readers?  There’s also the wonderfully encouraging news that 98% of American are considered literate.

This issue opens with letters. (more…)

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