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Archive for the ‘Dawn of Midi’ Category

[LISTENED TO: August 2015] The Organist Season 1

organistGiven my love of the McSweeney’s empire, it seems logical that I would have listened to The Organist sooner than this.  But I didn’t.  It has been on for a couple of years, so i assumed I’d never catch up.  But then I saw that there were only 50 episodes and most of them were quite short.  So it was time to see what it was all about.

And, since it is more or less in conjunction with The Believer, it should come as no surprise that it is sort of an aural equivalent to that magazine–longish pieces about esoteric subject, but geared specifically to “radio.”

The Organists first season was done as a monthly podcast starting on Feb 1.  Each episode was about 50 minutes long and covered a variety of subjects with fun guests and other ephemera.

Episode 1: (February 1, 2013)
The inaugural episode kicks off with Nick Offerman spouting some hilarious nonsense about podcasts.  The rest of the show includes an interview with George Saunders talking about the voices of his fiction; Greil Marcus discusses the impact of the first Bikini Kill EP now that it is reissued.  Perhaps the most unusual and interesting piece is when Amber Scorah tells the story of her defection from the Jehovah’s Witnesses while working as a missionary in Shanghai; In short pieces, Brandon Stosuy editor of Pitchfork, presents five five-word record reviews of interesting new guitar rock and then musicians Matmos take a song from their new album apart, piece by piece, revealing its brilliant, pulsating innards.  Basically they used thought control to get people to “create” a song for them.  It’s a really neat process even if the final result doesn’t really sound like the sum of its parts. (more…)

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princessSOUNDTRACK: DAWN OF MIDI-Dysnomia (2013).

domI heard about this disc while listening to The Organist podcast. (Episode 6)  I didn’t know anything about Dawn of Midi, but I understand they were/are a kind of improvisational jazz band (piano, contrabass and drums).  But don’t stop reading yet.  Dysnomia (between this and Method of the W.O.R.M.’s Cicatrix, I am certainly learning a lot of new words) is certainly jazzy.  But it doesn’t feel like jazz exactly.  In fact, I would never have guessed that they were playing real instruments.

The album is 47 minutes with 9 songs.  They are all instrumental and more or less flow into each other.  And as I say, I never would have imagined that it was just three instruments playing the music.  Not because it sounds weird–there’s nothing particularly unusual sounding about the record.  But because it is so precise.

And indeed, the piano doesn’t really sound like a piano (it’s a little muted), but the other two instruments are quite clearly drum and bass.  And yet it’s the rhythms and textures of the songs that are so unusual.  The songs are minimal, true, but they are complex in that minimalism.  So while there’s repeated piano notes, there’s complex drum patterns.  And the songs morph and change over the course of the record.  And not just from track to track but within a song as well.

Without going into great musical detail, there’s not a lot to say about the individual tracks.  As I say, it’s a lot of repetition, but there’s enough morphing that it never gets boring.  Maybe the piano is the emphasis for these few minutes, then a snare drum takes over.  Or the beat shifts or speeds up.  It’s really cool.  And it’s really hard to believe that these three guys are playing this live and not with machines.

I really can’t say enough about this record.  I didn’t expect to like it as much as I do, but I find that I can’t stop listening to it.

Check it out at their bandcamp site.

[READ: July 17, 2015] I am Princess X

Sarah brought this home from the library and said that I would like it and, as usual, she was right.

The story is about May and Libby, two young girls (fifth grade?) who are thrown together (they don’t know each other but are both skipping gym class) and form a cool bond.  Libby is a great artist, and while they are sitting in the Kindergarten playground, the little kids come over and ask her to draw things.  Soon enough, Libby draws a princess (I like that it was suggested by a boy).  She’s wearing red high tops, a crown and cape and has a cool katana sword (I must say this has to be the smoothest playground ever if she could get that much detail out of playground chalk).

The girls name her Princess X and since May can’t draw, she comes up with stories about her.  And soon enough, Libby and May have binders full of the Princess’ adventures.

As with a lot of YA books, there’s a horrific tragedy that follows.  Libby and her mom are in a car and her mom drives them off a bridge where she and Libby die.  (I know!).  May always thought there was something suspicious about the whole thing–Libby had a closed casket–but since May was a little girl no one paid her any mind.  Libby’s dad fled Seattle and that was the end of contact for May.

Meanwhile, May’s parents divorced and may moved back to the South (people in Seattle tease her about her accent).  But she does get to come up to Seattle to visit her dad from time to time.

And this time, when she’s walking around old haunts, she sees a sticker on a window.  It is Princess X and it even says “I am Princess X”  What the heck?  Well, when Libby’s dad sold the house, all of their Princess X stuff was given to goodwill.  So it must be someone who found it and stole their ideas.  But what if it’s something else? (more…)

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snSOUNDTRACK: FORGET ALL THAT AND JUST WAIL: New Music That Orbits Around Jazz (compilation The Believer July/August 2013).

bel This compilation came as a digital download with The Believer’s 2013 Music Issue (you need to get a physical copy of the issue to get the download code). Ross Simonini, the compiler, explains that he used to like jazz, but that he really doesn’t anymore.  And he finds himself attracted to these pieces that hover around jazz but which really aren’t jazz.  You can read Simonini’s thoughtful comments about all of these tracks here).  I enjoyed this compilation quite a lot and am considering getting a  few of these discs, or at least investigating them further.  And that’s want you want from a compilation.

COLIN STETSON-“The Righteous Wrath if an Honorable Man”
Any compilation that opens with Colin Stetson is okay with me.  This track was my introduction to the man last year and I still love it, in all of its insanity.

KARRIEM RIGGINS-“Double Trouble” is only 2 minutes long.  It’s got flutes and vibraphones and is super cool and retro sounding.  I really like it, although this track ends abruptly and I can’t decide if the actual song does or if it was cut short for the disc.

THUNDERCAT-“For Love  I Came” has some echoey keyboards and some great bass lines and cool/cheesy keyboard lines (it all sounds so gloriously 70s).  When the vocals come in, the whole track feels like Yes if Yes were inspired by jazz instead of classical (and had no drums—until about 2 minutes when the drums kick in and the song takes off and bass solo makes it very Yes-like).

THE BEN MONDER TRIO-“Red Shifts” is a classic style jazz guitar workout—the echoed effect is very jazzy.  And yet there is something very angular about the playing that keeps it from sounding smooth.   It’s a great track (which once again seems to get cut off very abruptly).

DAWN OF MIDI-“Ymir” is another trio—piano bass and drums.  The piano is muted (the pianist puts his hand on the strings) which makes it sound like another percussive instrument while it is also creating  the melody.  It’s very cool.  And I like the way over the 8 or so minutes the melody changes slightly, giving it a new sound almost accidentally.

GLOWS IN THE DARK-“Up and Down” starts as a fast but quiet guitar piece with some cool subtle horns over the top.  It features a rap by Count Bass D which i do not care for (The “I’m pissed/L.L. Cool J” verse is really awkward).  This is the first track on the disc that i really don’t like, which is a shame because the music is really cool.

STEVE RAEGELE-“Traingle (Daedalus)” is a weird, cool experimental sounding track.  Sounds are overlaid on each other with a lot of echoing that gives it a very dense structure.  Whether or not this is jazz is hard to say but it’s very intriguing.

MARY HALVORSON QUINTET-“Sea Cut Like Snow (No. 26)” Halvorson is a guitarist and this live track features some of the most traditional jazz on the compilation.  The song has cool melodies and some nice improvsiing (on various instruments).  It runs a little long though (I wish this had been truncated rather than the earlier ones) but it’s enjoyable.

FLYING LOTUS-“German Haircut” this is an electronically manipulated pastiche of songs with a sax solos placed over the top.  It’s an interesting concoction.

CHRIS CORSANO-“Famously Short Arms”  This is one of the most amazing drum videos I’ve ever seen–it is so creative and original.  As an audio track it is basically a  drum solo, but watching him and what he does on the drums is really mind expanding.

MATANA ROBERTS-“lulla/bye”  I have this track as well (two tracks from Constellation here).  It’s full of saxophones and longing in the singing.  It’s hard to define but it’s very evocative.

MICROKINGDOM-“Peppermint Crab” This is a weird and wild piece.  It opens with some manipulated and spacey vibes and electronics and then gets assaulted by a wild and screaming sax solo that would make John Zorn proud.

DIAMOND TERRIFIER-“Kill the Self That Wants to Kill Yourself” This song opens with some simple keyboard chords and some odd unsettling sounds thrown over them (waves of static and squeaking saxophone). Then comes some wild soloing.

This is a solid compilation of jazz-like music.  It veers into more extreme forms of jazz and will certainly alienate some listeners, but it’s an introduction to what else is out there on the fringes.

[READ: August 8, 2013] Shakespeare’s Nigga

The artistic director of the Obsidian Theatre Company (which put on this play) explains in the intro that with a title like that, you’re going to get attention.  In fact he initially said that they couldn’t use that title, because it was too much.  But they changed their mind because it really was…right.

This story looks at the two most prominent black men in Shakespeare: Othello (the Moorish general who is ruled by violent emotion) and Aaron (a Moorish slave who is basically pure evil—in Titus Andronicus).  As the artistic development coordinator of the Obsidian Theater says, Shakespeare is the authority on writing characters, thus these two men have become entwined in Black masculinity.  Which is a shame because “Moor” could basically be anyone who did not live in Europe and because Shakespeare likely didn’t know any black people (except as slaves).  It’s not really a good sample.

Playwright Joseph Jomo Pierre doesn’t seek to rectify this or upend this or decry Shakespeare.  What he does is much more subtle and much more powerful.

There are five characters in the play: Othello, Aaron, Tyrus (an older black male), Shakespeare and Judith (Shakespeare’s daughter).  Shakespeare and Othello are comrades (I won’t say friends, but it seems like Shakespeare relies on Othello for protection and advice).  Meanwhile, Aaron has tried to escape from his slavery and is currently chained up and beaten (usually by Othello). (more…)

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