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Archive for the ‘Devonté Hynes’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: LIGHTSPEED CHAMPION (“Field Recording” March 2, 2009).

Years before NPR created a category called “Field Recordings,” they were creating Field Recordings–“backstage” (or elsewhere) recordings of bands.  Most of these seem to happen at Music Festivals where musicians just seem to be hanging around anyway.

I have no idea how many of these there are.  In fact, the only reason I discovered this one is because there was a link to it from the Blood Orange Tiny Desk Concert.

Because it turns out that Devonté Hyness, the guy behind Blood Orange was once Dev Hynes, the guy behind Lightspeed Champion.

And so, eleven years ago, Lightspeed Champion played SXSW.

It was a spectacularly beautiful day in Austin, TX when Lightspeed Champion’s Dev Hynes and violinist Mike Siddell met with All Songs Considered’s Bob Boilen for this exclusive outdoor performance. Hynes and Siddell offered up an intimate little set as they ran through four songs, opening with “Tell Me What It’s Worth,” followed by “Everyone I Know is Listening to Crunk,” “Galaxy of the Lost” and an inspired cover of Olivia Newton John’s “Xanadu.”

For all four songs, it’s Dev on acoustic guitar and Mike on violin.  Like on “Tell Me What It’s Worth” Dev sings mostly quietly with his accent audible.  The violin adds sweet touches and occasional solos.

He introduces “Everyone I Know is Listening to Crunk” by saying that crunk is a musical genre that originated about two hours east of here.  Li’l John more or less started it and the queen of crunk is Sierra.  It features this amusing chorus (?)

my drawings are starting to suck
My best friends are all listening to crunk
i feel like the world’s gone crazy
…sometimes in the cold night my phone rings but it’s not you

“Galaxy of the Lost” is a slow pretty ballad with a lovely rising scale in the middle.

Finally comes his cover of “Xanadu” (a song I love).  The opening guitar sounds like “Sugar Pie Honey Bunch” and I love the way he resolves it into “Xanadu.”  The sprinkles of violin are a nice touch.

It’s pretty amazing how different this sounds from Blood Orange.  It’s an impressive development for an artist.

[READ: January 23, 2019] Secret Coders: Potions & Parameters

Secret Coders 4 ended with a puzzle.  But I read it months ago, so I haven’t even thought about it since then.  In fact, I have conceded that I will not learn basic programming from this series, so I’m not even trying.  I could see, though, that if you were reading these in quick succession that it would be fun to learn how to do what they are doing and to try the tests.

When we last left our heroes they were being attacked by biting ducks (!).  They use their program skills and the hard-light-generating Light-Light to escape.  And they wind up in a room with all the people who have drunk the green soda.  Including Hopper’s dad.  What?

As they try to snap him out of the “green!” stupor he is in, Dr. One-Zero arrives with Paz.  Turns out Paz was double crossing the kids all along and now Dr. One-Zero has the hard light generator and has the kids trapped.  He’s that much closer to winning–and his final plan is pretty terrible. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BLOOD ORANGE-Tiny Desk Concert #820 (January 29, 2019).

One night when I was going to a concert at the small club The Foundry, the main stage Fillmore had sold out for someone called Blood Orange, whom I’d never heard of.

And now he is at a Tiny Desk Concert.  From the name (and the popularity) I assumed it was an intense dance show.  I don’t know what Blood Orange normally sounds like but nothing could be further from loud dance music than this Concert.

Devonté Hynes is the main man behind Blood Orange.  He is “a groundbreaking producer and songwriter” and “a composer who fits as comfortably in the worlds of R&B, gospel and electronics as he does in the classical world of someone like Philip Glass.”

Blood Orange addresses

themes of identity, both sexual and racial, through the eyes of a black East Londoner (now living in New York).

For me the most powerful song was the first one, “By Ourselves.”  I don’t love the saxophone sound, but it’s the words that are so moving.

The opening song at the Tiny Desk, “By Ourselves,” features Dev Hynes on piano, Jason Arce on saxophone, Eva Tolkin and Ian Isiah on vocals along with a powerful spoken word performance by Ashlee Haze. Ashlee’s story is a tale of finding herself and her identity in the words and music of Missy Elliott when she was, in Ashlee’s own words, an eight-year old, “fat black girl from Chicago” who discovered “she could dance until she felt pretty” and “be a woman playing a man’s game.”

Her spoken word is amazing–moving, powerful and inclusive in many ways.  It will resonate, I hope.  And Hynes’ piano playing at the end is just lovely.

Ian sings the opening melody with a gorgeous falsetto.

“Jewelry,” the second song performed, welcomes Mikey Freedom Hart on piano while Dev moves on to electric guitar and vocals reminiscent of a languid Jimi Hendrix, with soul-baring lyrics of pride.

Hynes switches between spoken word (with his great deep, accented voice) and delicate singing.  Then the song shifts gears entirely as he starts playing a gentle echoed guitar.  I don’t hear Jimi Hendrix (maybe in his echoed guitar playing), I hear more of a Prince vibe.

The group then offers a rendition of “Holy Will,” inspired by the Detroit gospel group The Clark Sisters, as singer Ian Isiah takes this song of praise to a whole new level.

Introducing the song he says, “This song, my family Ian Isiah is gonna… tear the fuck up.  Can you swear on this?  You put the thing before hand that says explicit language, right?”  And Isiah does tear it the fuck up.  It’s a quiet song but Isiah’s voice (especially when paired with Eva Tolkin) is almost otherworldly.

For the final song, “Dagenham Dream” everyone but Ian and Eva leave.

Dev Hynes works an organ sound while singing about being beaten and bullied as a school kid in his hometown of Dagenham in east London.

I love the cool organ sounds and the way the seem to rise out of the deep darkness into a bright note of hope.

The power of each of these songs is magnified by the way Blood Orange has woven this performance together. He’s a rich, rare and caring talent we first met 11 years ago in a grassy field in Austin, Texas back when he still used the moniker Lightspeed Champion. Now his thoughts are deeper, his message of finding one’s place in this world more deep-seated, with a clarity few artists ever achieve.

[READ: November 2, 2018] “Friday Black”

I’m not sure how many Esquire issues have a short story in them.  I thought about going back to previous issues and seeing just how many stories there are over the course of 85 years.  But it’s a little hard to read their website when it comes to what’s actually fiction and what just talks about fiction.

So, I’ll be content with stories like this one, which I loved.

The story opens with ravenous humans howling at a gate.  The narrator explains that he is sitting on a cabin roof with an eight-foot metal pole.  He uses it to grab hangers off the highest racks and to smack down Friday heads.  For this is a zombie story about Black Friday.

(more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DEVONTÉ HYNES interviews PHILIP GLASS (Field Recordings, September 21, 2017).

This is the final video under the “Field Recordings” headline [‘When You Gonna Get A Real Job?’: Philip Glass And Devonté Hynes Compare Notes].  Unlike the other videos I have watched, this one is actually an interview, not a song.

I was unfamiliar with Devonté Hynes.  He is a 31-year-old British producer and songwriter who performs under the name Blood Orange,  He has made many hit records with the likes of Carly Rae Jepsen.  And Philip Glass was at the time of this interview, 80 years old (and calls the cast of Hamilton hipster, instead of hip-hop, but he did rave about the show (which Hynes was unable to get tickets to!).

Walk into Hynes’ third floor loft in New York’s Chinatown and you’ll find a photo of Glass on his piano. He discovered Glass’ music by chance as a London teenager, when he bought the 1982 album Glassworks on the strength of its crystalline cover image alone. What he heard after he brought it home transfixed him. Today, he says Glass’ influence “seeps” into his music.

This spring, Hynes invited Glass to his apartment where they sat at a piano, compared chords and traded stories. Ninety minutes later, their wide-ranging conversation had touched on the pulse of New York City, the pains of striking out on your own as a musician, what role the arts play in society today and Hamilton. Plus about a hundred other ideas.

This clip is only 6 minutes, and they don’t touch on all that much.  We learn that Glass grew up in Baltimore and worked in his father’s record store.  His father knew nothing about music but loved it and soon enough young Philip was the store’s record buyer.

Glass moved to New York in 1957.  His mother told him that being a musician would be a terrible life of travel and hotels.  And he thought that sounded wonderful.  He worked day jobs loading trucks and moving furniture–he never took a job he couldn’t get out off if he had the opportunity to play.

He says that Einstein on the Beach was a hit but he knew nothing about money and they actually lost money on the deal.

For his part, Devonté came from London to New York ten years ago.  he says you can hear Glass’ jobs in his music, like the sounds of the city as he drove his taxi around.

Glass concludes, “When bad things happen in the country the artists become the voice.  Without the arts our society would be a prison.”

[READ: January 17, 2018] “Sans Farine”

I really couldn’t believe how long this story felt.  Even with enjoying most of it, it seemed like it was 50 pages not 9.

The narrator, Charles Henri Sanson is an executioner in France around the time of the revolution.  He was a real person.  I didn’t know that while reading this but it doesn’t really impact my take on the story.

His father and his six brothers were also executioners.  There is quite a stigma to the job–most people are not allowed to even communicate with them, much less marry them.  And yet ask any soldier what his profession entails  He’ll answer that he kills men.  No one flees his company for that reason.

There’s a lot of detail about his life, both before and after the revolution,  He and his family have negotiated the revolution well and he still works,no killing the royals,

He talks about Joseph Guillotin reinventing the penal code–a less barbaric, swifter execution for all condemned. (more…)

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