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Archive for the ‘Dungen’ Category

SOUNDTRACK:공중도둑 (MID-AIR THIEF)쇠사슬 (Ahhhh, These Chains!)” (2018).

At the end of every year publications and sites post year end lists.  I like to look at them to see if I missed any albums of significance.  But my favorite year end list comes from Lars Gottrich at NPR.  For the past ten years, Viking’s Choice has posted a list of obscure and often overlooked bands.  Gottrich also has one of the broadest tastes of anyone I know (myself included–he likes a lot of genres I don’t).  

Since I’m behind on my posts at the beginning of this year, I’m taking this opportunity to highlight the bands that he mentions on this year’s list.  I’m only listening to the one song unless I’m inspired to listen to more.

공중도둑 (Mid-Air Thief) is from Korea (obviously).  Beyond that, virtually nothing is known about him (Lars confirms that it is a he, even if many of the vocals are by Summer Soul–she is his guest singer).

Mid-Air Thief makes beautiful but weird, glitchy folk music.  Every time something really lovely seems to come along, there’s always some kind of twist to make it not what you think.  This, of course, keeps everything interesting and fun.  But despite that, the whole album is bright and cheerful.  There’s feelings of Dungen and Beck and even some Kishi Bashi.  There’s even a sense of the more psychedelic Flaming Lips songs (but without the over-loud low end).

It’s really great.

“쇠사슬,” which translates into the delightfully odd “Ahhhh, These Chains!” opens with a pretty, fast-picked guitar and delicate voices.  The song builds as electronic sounds are placed throughout adding tension but never overriding the pleasantness of the guitar and soft voices.  After a slight break into a “chorus” the song resumes almost doubled in sounds and power, but never losing that sweetness.

I love how the song seems like it’s going to end after around four minutes but it still has a bashing coda to show off before it finally ends at five minutes.

Bob Boilen has sent out a plea to Mid-Air Thief to do a Tiny Desk Concert, and boy I hope that happens.

Plus how great is Mid-Air Thief’s avatar (on the left).

[READ: January 6, 2019] “It’s All Over Now”

This story is about a young woman, living alone and fearful in a sketchy part of Mexico.

Tina Reyes is the single woman.  She boards a bus to visit her friend Rosa.  She hopes Rosa is all right–Rosa had looked tired last week. Tina thinks about Rosa with her husband and children and she grows rather sad and melancholy thinking about her own life and how she will never have anything like that.

Is her status a self-fulfilling prophecy or is she just sensible about the word around her?

As soon as she gets off the bus a man approaches her.  She is freaked out by his request:

Pardon me senorita, may I walk with you? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DUNGEN-Häxan (2016).

I have been to a lot of shows in the last couple of years.  I have also had tickets to a few that I had to miss for various reasons.  The one I regret missing the most was the Dungen show where they were going to play live for the film The Adventures of Prince Achmed.   I missed it because there was pretty heavy snow–it was the right choice, I am just bummed about it.  It’s not so much that I wanted to see them perform the music that’s in this album (I didn’t even know it at the time), it’s just the experience that sounded awesome (and the fact that they played a second set of their other songs afterward was icing).

So this soundtrack officially came out recently.  It’s about 40 minutes (the film is around an hour) and it is a largely fun Dungen release with a feeling of soundtrack invoked.

The disc opens with “Peri Banu vid sjön,” the perfect soundtrack–slow and loping with washes of sound.  “Jakten genom skogen” follows with slow washes of sound with a pretty acoustic guitar melody and some lively bass.  It slowly builds in a kind of rocking 70s way.  “Wak-Wak’s portar” is a fast loud riotous affair that lasts a minute and a half.   It traipses back and forth on headphones and even has a penny whistle solo. It is sort of forcibly segued into “Den Fattige Aladdin,” a rather muffled distant sounding flute melody (I’m guessing it’s Aladdin’s motif).

“Trollkarlen och fågeldräkten” is a jazzy number with bass and piano and soaring wild guitar over the top of it.  “Grottan” is a minute of spooky synths that segues into the noisy buzzy guitar workout of “Häxan.”  That rocking slows to a slow menacing thump of drum and piano.

“Aladdin’s flykt över havet” is a soaring minute of synths which is followed by the sparing uplifting synths of “Kalifen.”

“Achmed flyger: is a fast piano based piece about Achmed flying, I assume.  Then there’s two Aladdin pieces: “Aladdin och lampan, del 1” is a slow one minute piano piece “del 2” returns to that flute motif with a groovy guitar and bass behind it.  The melody gets shunted to the distance as “Achmed och Peri Banu”  takes over with its drums and somewhat menacing bass.

The final song “Andarnas Krig” is nearly seven minutes long.  It is classic Dungen: wailing guitar solos with feebdack ala Hendrx’ “Star Spangled Banner.”  There’s some great rollicking bass work and rocking drums and everything.

Although this isn’t as substantial as some of their other albums, it’s a great collection of psychedelic instrumentals and you can imagine a movie streaming behind it.

[READ: April 18, 2017] Birthright: Volume Four

So much happens in this book that it’s like having whiplash–in the best way possible.

We open with Wendy and Rya in Mastema’s dining room.  Wendy is pleased to be lavished, but Rya says not to forget that they are in fact her prisoners–no matter how nice the accommodations.  While they are there, the other three mages arrive and discuss what should be done about this whole Mikey thing.

Speaking of the Mikey thing, we cut to the men of Mikey’s family: Mikey, his brother Brennan, his father Aaron and his grandfather–Sameal.  They head towards Sameal’s “lair” which is a  warehouse with extra security “magic doesn’t protect everything.”  This time-out allows everyone to deal with each other.  Aaron get t o confront his father–the father who was never there for him, who left when he was little and was the reason the Aaron acted the way he did with his own kids.

While there, Enoch, one of the other mages, comes to confront Sameal and we learn what their whole deal was. Enoch says that in all of their time together Sameal never told him that he had a family on earth (whereas Enoch told Sameal everything).  Enoch is offended that he didn’t share this intimate detail, but is more upset because he wants to know what Sameal was hiding all this time.  And the crux here is that Enoch says that Sameal’s own family is irrelevant if he can save the world–killing his grandson could save the world! (more…)

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[ATTENDED: June 22, 2017] Joy Again

I had never been to PhilaMOCA before this evening.  I was supposed to see Dungen there this winter, but a snow storm kept me away.  Well, imagine my surprise that the event location is even smaller than I realized.  You walk in and the band is directly to your left.  There’s a small room and a balcony (sometimes in use) which holds about 250 people.

When I walked in Joy Again was already on stage.  I had listened to their bandcamp release before the show.  It was a lo-fi affair.

I was surprised at just how loud the band was live–a very different experience than I was expecting. (more…)

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mystrugglSOUNDTRACK: TRICKY-“Christiansands” (1996).

christiansandsThis book is set in Kristiansands, and so naturally this song was ringing through my head the whole while I was reading it.  I’ve known this song for ages, but had no idea that Chirstiansands was an actual place in Norway.

This song is dark and tense.  Over a slinky beat, a spare guitar riff introduces Tricky’s voice as he rasps (his voice is slightly modified to give him a weird echo).  And while he’s reciting his verses, the gorgeous voice of Martina Topley-Bird, repeats what he’s saying in a whispered voice until she sings out the chorus “I met a Christian in Christiansands.”

The verses repeat with Tricky emphasizing, “master your language and in the meantime I create my own.  It means we’ll manage.”

I honestly don’t know what the song is about, and it feels like it never properly ends–that riff, at once menacing and gripping never seems to conclude.  It’s a masterful track and hard to forget once you’ve heard it.

[READ: May 11, 2013] My Struggle Book One

I read an excerpt of Book Two from this series in Harper’s.  And despite the fact that nothing really happened in it, I was drawn in by the writing style.  This first novel is very similar in that not a lot happens but the voice is very captivating.  The translation is by Don Bartlett and it is fantastic–I can only assume the original Norwegian is just as compelling.  So, despite the fact that this autobiographical series contain six books (six!) and totals over 4,000 pages (how could this be if Book one is a mere 400?  Books 4-6 are over 1,000 pages each), I decided to give it a try.  (Incidentally, Book Two has just been translated into English this month).

This series has caused some controversy because it is given the same title as Hitler’s Mein Kampf (Min Kamp in Norwegian), and also because he says some pretty means stuff about people who are still alive (like his ex-wife).  Although there isn’t much of that in Book One.

death in the familyIndeed, Book One basically talks about two things–a New Year’s Eve party when Karl Ove was youngish and, as the bracketed title indicates, the death of his father.  (The title A Death in the Family is the same book as My Struggle Book One–from a different publisher.  It has a totally different cover but is the same translation.  I don’t quite get that).  But indeed, these two events take 430 pages to write about.

How is this possible?  Because Karl Ove writes about every single detail.  (I assume this why the books are considered novels, because there is no way he could remember so much detail about every event).  I’m going to quote a lengthy section from a New Yorker review (by James Wood) because he really captures the feeling of reading the book:

There is a flatness and a prolixity to the prose; the long sentences have about them an almost careless avant-gardism, with their conversational additions and splayed run-ons. The writer seems not to be selecting or shaping anything, or even pausing to draw breath….  There is something ceaselessly compelling about Knausgaard’s book: even when I was bored, I was interested. This striking readability has something to do with the unconventionality of “My Struggle.” It looks, at first sight, familiar enough: one of those highly personal modern or postmodern works, narrated by a writer, usually having the form if not the veracity of memoir and thus plotted somewhat accidentally, concerned with the writing of a book that turns out to be the text we are reading.  But there is also a simplicity, an openness, and an innocence in his relation to life, and thus in his relation to the reader. Where many contemporary writers would reflexively turn to irony, Knausgaard is intense and utterly honest, unafraid to voice universal anxieties, unafraid to appear naïve or awkward. Although his sentences are long and loose, they are not cutely or aimlessly digressive: truth is repeatedly being struck at, not chatted up.

That idea of being bored but interested is really right on–and it may sound like a bad thing, but it’s not.  You can read along thinking that there’s no way he is going to give so much unimportant detail.  But you get this description of drinking a cup of tea: (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TAME IMPALA-Innerspeaker (2010).

Tame Impala are from Australia, and their sound is majorly retro.  They remind me a lot of Dungen, including the fact that I would have guessed (from the way the words are sung) that English wasn’t their native language (which makes this already trippy album feel even more trippy).

Fuzzy guitars over a cool bassline introduce this album.  “It is Not meant to Be” is something of  statement about the sound of this album.  And when the vocals come in (fuzzier still), it’s retro all the way.  “Desire Be, Desire Go” continues the fuzzy guitar with a slightly faster pace.  The chorus comes in a little cleaner which is nice as it breaks up the fuzz somewhat (but only somewhat).  “Lucidity” ups the noise and pace with a great catchy riff and a strong chorus.  I think of this as the “hit” based solely on the fact that I heard it first, but when they played KEXP in studio sometime after the release of the album, they didn’t play this song .

They did play “Why Won’t You Make Up Your Mind” which is probably the real single–the cool reverbed riff and the soaring guitars sound great.  “Solitude is Bliss” has become my favorite song on the album lately.  The vocals remind me of early songs by The Who (maybe from Sell Out), but again, the music is all reverbed and hippie sounding, it’s a nice pairing and the chorus is once again, really catchy.  “Jeremy’s Storm” opens with a cool riff. It turns into a wild jam instrumental.  “The Bold Arrow of Time” sounds like a song from the 70s.  The guitar sound as it opens could come from Jesus Christ Superstar and when the riff finally kicks in, it could be a Cream song.  And yet the vocals (always soaring) don’t sound like anything from that time).

I love any song with a good bassline (especially one that’s not just repeating the guitar riff)–so I love the cool bassline that runs through “Runway, Houses, City, Clouds”–high and kind of obtrusive.  A perfect way to keep pace.  And when the bass gets a little “solo” at the end, it’ s a nice payoff.  The final song is “I Don’t Really Mind.”  It’s the most conventional and not dreamy sounding album on the album.  There’s even a break from the wall of guitar where we get just some drum beats–it’s very p0ppy.  It’s a good ending, upbeat and catchy and makes you want to start the whole shebang over again.

The album is a little long-feeling overall (it’s about 55 minutes), and some of it can be a little samey, but there’s enough diversity and great songwriting to make this album really enjoyable.

[READ: July 2012] At Home on the Range

Another frickin cookbook?  For a guy who doesn’t do cookbooks, there’s certainly a lot of cooking-based items on this blog.  Blame McSweeney’s who put out this book, too.

As everyone knows Elizabeth Gilbert wrote Eat, Pray, Love.  I’ve never read it (although I have read some of her earlier books (Pilgrims and Stern Men) which I liked quite a bit–I was into her before she was cool, man).  But this book is actually a cookbook that her great-grandmother wrote and had published in 1947.  Gilbert’s contribution is slim, but engaging.  She gives a lengthy biography of her Gima.  She was born rich (Main Line Philadelphia rich) and loved to travel.  Gilbert says that you can sum up Gima with a Jazz Age sensibility and one word: Enjoy!  By the time she was married (to an “impossible” man) much of their money was gone–indeed, she slipped out of a few foreclosed homes as the sheriff was coming for them.

Gilbert also points out how far ahead of her time Gima was.  The 1940s saw food moving towards prepackaging and processing.  So this cookbook came out right around frozen dinners to try to re-introduce women to the kitchen (although not in a retrograde way) and to be proud of what you can accomplish there.  But more than just a cookbook, Gima tried to introduce Americans to Brains with Black Butter, Eels, Tripe and Calves’ Head Cheese.  She was also unafraid to try things in different neighborhoods (the story of how she first encountered pizza is wonderful).  Gilbert wonders what might have become of her in a different time place or circumstances and it’s true for she was really a remarkable woman.

And the remarkable nature of this cookbook is not the recipes (which are remarkable and I would like to try some of the simpler ones), but the prosaic nature of the book.  Gima is telling a story with each recipe.  Indeed, the recipes aren’t even given in standard annotated form: they are written in the prose.   Gilbert’s other contribution is to take ten of their family’s favorite recipes from the book and write them out in conventional cooking style for ease of cooking.  I enjoyed this book a lot–Gima is a fascinating woman with a delightful taste for life.  The question is what to try first? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKDUNGEN -Skit I Allt (2010).

I’ve enjoyed every Dungen release that I’ve bought and this one is no exception.  Although I will admit that the other ones grabbed me a bit more (there are some amazing songs on earlier discs).  This one is a bit more sedate in general; perhaps this is Dungen’s ballad album.

It opens with “Vara Snabb,” an instrumental with lots of flute (!).  While  “Mid Edna Vän” is a gentle ballad (Gustav Ejstes’ voice is very nice: soft and delicate”).  “Brallor” is a duet with Anna Järvinen–her voice is haunting and beautiful.

“Soda” is another delicate ballad.  It opens with some loud drumming but quickly settles into a very gently sung song.  “Hogdalstoopen” opens with a quiet piano and slowly morphs into a noisy instrumental with an expansive, wailing guitar solo–the kind of which attracted me to Dungen in the first place.  It devolves into some chaotic noise, which is fun and works as a cathartic moment on this mstly quiet disc.

“Skit I Allt” is a pretty standard rock song (very 70s sounding).  And “Blandband” is a catchy piano number with a tone that reminds me of Peanuts, but which concludes with another trippy flute solo.  The last two songs return to the mellow quality of the earlier tracks and “Marken låg stilla” ends the disc with a super catchy chorus.

As I said, compared to their earlier discs which highlighted Ejstes’ firework-like guitar playing, this one shows the bands’ softer side.  It works as a nice companion piece (and still shows off the band’s instrumental chops).

Here’s your quick Swedish translation guide: Dungen (“the grove”), “Vara snabb” (“Being quick”) “Min enda vän” (“My only friend”) “Brallor” (“Pants”) “Skit i allt” (“Fuck it all”) “Barnen undrar” (“The children are wondering”) “Blandband” (“Mixtape”) Nästa sommar” (“Next summer”) “Marken låg stilla” (“The ground lay still”)

[READ: May 23, 2011] “What Animal Are You?”

Etgar Keret was recently in McSweeney’s 37 (I really liked his story).  This short piece is from his forthcoming book, and if they are all unusual like this I would be very excited to read it.

This story seems so much like non-fiction, that I can’t really decide what, if anything, has really happened to him already.  As the story opens, the narrator explains that he is writing for German Public Television.  Literally.  A reporter from GPT is in the room with him right now.  They are filming him for a show and need him to be “writing.”

He tries to fake it, but she says that it will look bad on TV.  So she insists that he write something for real, perhaps about her being there and how it makes him feel to be under pressure like this.  And so he begins writing.  Then his son comes home and gives him a big hug (he’s used to performing for cameras) but his wife (when she arrives) seems far more unnatural on camera–and will probably be cut.

The title comes from a phrase that his son (who is 4) says.  He sits on the stairs and asks everyone who walks by, “What kind of animal are you?”  The narrator reflects on how people respond to him: his wife, some random people who the boy encounters and, ultimately, the reporter.

The whole piece feels like several different snippets, and yet Keret ties them all together very nicely.  And it’s funny too.

It was translated by Miriam Schlesinger.

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SOUNDTRACK: TAME IMPALA-“Lucidity” (2010).

I heard this song on the NPR’s 5 Artists You Should Have Known in 2010.  The album, Innerspace, is only available in Australia (imported on Amazon for big bucks) but I guess that’s why people download music.

This song is really cool. It feels very My Bloody Valentine to me.  However, inevitable comparisons to The Beatles abound, but that’s mostly in the vocals (which is kind of funny since they are Australian).  But it’s really a very sixties British vocal sound–not unlike early Who).

The big difference comes in the music which is psychedelic and wild in ways that The Beatles never quite managed.  There are great big washes of noise, and the sound quality sounds retro, even though it obviously isn’t.  Comparisons to the great Swedish band Dungen are not misplaced either.

I’ve listened to a few more tracks by them on YouTube, and I think this album could easily be one of the best of 2010 if only more people could hear it!

[READ: January 3, 2010] The Return

With the completion of this collection of short stories, I have now caught up with all of the published works of Roberto Bolaño (in English of course).  [The next book, Between Parentheses, a collection of nonfiction, is slated for June].

So The Return contains the 13 short stories that were not published in Last Evenings on Earth.  That collection inexplicably took shorts stories from his two Spanish collections Llamadas telefónicas (1997) and Putas asesinas (2001) and combined them into one collection in English.  It wasn’t quite as evident in Last Evenings, but it seems more obvious here that the stories in Putas asesinas are grouped together for a stylistic reason.  So, to have them split up is a bit of a bummer.  And yet, having them all translated is really the important thing.  And, again, Chris Andrews does an amazing job in the translation

This collection of stories was very strong.  I had read a few pieces in Harper’s and the New Yorker, but the majority were new to me.  Bolaño is an excellent short story writer.  Even if his stories don’t go anywhere (like his novels that never quite reach their destination), it’s his writing that is compelling and absorbing.

This collection also had some different subject matter for Bolaño (it wasn’t all poets on searches). (more…)

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