Archive for the ‘Diamanda Galas’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: BLACK MOUNTAIN-Live at the Rock n Roll Hotel, Washington DC, February 19, 2008 (From NPR) (2008).

I’ve really enjoyed the two Black Mountain CDs that I have (I’ve yet to hear their debut). Their blend of psychedelia and Black Sabbath is always interesting, especially when singer Amber Webber adds her great harmonies (and leads) to the proceedings.

So it’s astonishing that Webber herself is the sole reason that I can’t listen to this show.

The band sounds great.  The musicians are right on, and the energy is good. But I can’t imagine what possessed Webber to sing the way she does.  At the end of every sung line, she ends with a vibrato that is not so much vibrato as it is staccato.  I thought it was an odd affectation to increase the psychedelicness of the first song, but she does it on every track, even when she sings lead!

Holy cow, is it ever annoyin-in-in-in-in-ing.

There are tracks when she doesn’t participate, and those are fine.  There’s also a song that is mostly instrumental and that sounds great.  But as soon as she starts singing, the whole thing goes downhill.  She doesn’t sing like that on the records, so what ever made her think that was a wise choice for a live show?   To add a really obscure reference, she sounds not unlike Diamanda Galás during her Plague Mask recordings–but that was an operatic style befitting her over the top recording.  It simply doesn’t work here.

Even Bob Boilen, normally an ecstatic reviewer of the shows he hosts seems put out by them.  He says that the band never set up a rapport with the audience.  That’s not exactly true as they do thank everyone for coming out on a Tuesday night.  But there didn’t seem to be a lot of warmth shared between everyone.

Stick to the studio albums!

[READ: March 19, 2011] Half a Life

This book is a memoir by novelist Darin Strauss.  And it opens with the fairly shocking revelation: when he was 18, he killed a girl.  She was a fellow classmate in the grade below his.

He and some friends were driving to a of social event (they were all sober).  She was riding her bike with some friends on the same road.  He saw her, but he was in the left lane, so he wasn’t too concerned and then suddenly she swerved over two lanes and into his windshield.  She died soon after.

He was completely absolved of all blame: police, eyewitnesses, even her family (oh my god, her family), everyone agreed that it was not his fault at all, there was nothing he could have done.  And yet, as he puts it, because of where he was, a girl is now dead.

The rest of the book details how, at 18, one can learn to cope (or not) with the unthinkable.   He has to finish school and prom with all of the kids in his small Long Island town who know that he killed a classmate.  He also can’t stop thinking about her and wonders how he can go on with his life when she won’t be able to do the same.

It’s an emotionally riveting story and I was utterly empathetic.  Not that I’ve had any kind of experience like that, but (especially) now that I have children, I can’t imagine how I would react to such news.  And since Strauss is a sensitive individual I can imagine at how that would eat away at you forever.

By the second half of the book, something newly unthinkable has happened; her family is suing him for $1 million.  Which he obviously doesn’t have.  This trial–and remember he has been exonerated by everyone–lasts on and off for 5 years, all during his college.  And, of course, this isn’t something you tell people–he doesn’t want anyone at college to think of him as a killer–so there’s pretty much no one he can talk to.

The events of the story happened in the 80s.  Strauss has gone on to be a succesful novelist (although I hadn’t heard of him before this book). He also has a family of his own.  Writing this book was his way of trying to cope with this incident that really defined his life.

It’s hard to say much more about the book.  It is really powerful and a simply horrifying thing to consider.  Strauss is a very good writer who never plays for sympathy (he even sides with her family in the beginning). The book is also a remarkably fast read.  Many of his chapters are one or two paragraphs, and you can finish it in a couple of hours.  But that’s also because the story is so gripping.

For ease of searching I include: Diamanda Galas

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bowl.jpgSOUNDTRACK: CARLA BOZULICH-Evangelista [CST041] (2007).

carla.jpgThis record comes from the mighty Constellation label. Don and Ian are super nice guys in Montreal who release some fantastic music. I have been a fan for years, and I have all of their releases. I get them sight unheard, because I know they release good, quality music with great packaging. They came to my attention through Godspeed You Black Emperor, a fantastic instrumental band, and their spinoffs (A Silver Mt. Zion, etc.).

Initially, they released pretty much only bands that had connections to each other (to see who plays on each others’ records, you’d need a spreadsheet about ten pages long). They have since branched out to include some really notable musicians like Vic Chesnutt (!) and Carla Bozulich.

Carla Bozulich was the singer for the great band The Geraldine Fibbers. gfib.jpg She has a very strong voice, and sounds not unlike Diamanda Galas, meaning she can hit the high notes, and the powerful notes, and the screechy notes, and tends to be a bit scary from time to time. In the context of the Geraldine Fibbers, it was really an amazing thing to behold.

They were a sort of country-punk band, and they were really tight. Carla’s vocals could scream or soothe depending on her mood. And working together, they were pretty great.

I mention this band because Carla’s solo album is a little too free-form for her own good. She thanks the producers for letting her get out things that have been inside. And I’m sure that was cathartic. However, I find that her voice needs the stabilizing force of a solid backing band. This solo album has very erratic (and very interesting) music, but when combined with her voice, it’s just a little too much chaos. With the Fibbers, the grounding of the backing band and structured songs really made her voice shine. On this one, there’s just so much going on that it’s all a bit of a mess.

The music itself is actually pretty great. It’s very unusual, with strings, and staccato sounds. Her voice also sounds great. After all, it’s been a few years since the Fibbers broke up, so it’s nice that she can still hit the notes. It’s just that the off-kilter music really competes with her off-kilter voice leading to an overall unsatisfying experience.

She has a new one coming out with a full band called Evangelista. I’ve listened through once, and it sounds much more cohesive. I think the solo record was just something to get out of her system.

[READ: March 10, 2008] Bowl of Cherries

McSweeney’s published this book. And the only story behind this book that you may have heard is that the author is old. Really old, not just old for McSweeney’s old, but like nineties old. It’s something of a shame that this was the first (and pretty much only) thing I heard about this book. And yet it is an interesting background in and of itself. (more…)

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