Archive for the ‘Elizabeth Anka Vajagic’ Category


silentlandThis is a great compilation of Constellation artists from 2004 and earlier.  What makes it so good is that 13 of the 14 songs are released here for the first time.  So it works not only as a sampler of the labels artists, it also works as a great rarities collection.

ELIZABETH ANKA VAJAGIC-“The Sky Lay Still” [stripped down version of album song].  This song starts with slow echoing guitars and Elizabeth’s voice which sounds a bit like Carla Bozulich (but cleaner).  Two minutes in, it shifts tones to an awesomely catchy section with great vocals.

DO MAKE SAY THINK-“Winter Hymn Winter Hymn Winter Hymn”   This is the entire Winter Hymn … album remixed into a 5 minute track.  I’ve often complained that I dislike remixes but this one is great.  It includes some big guitar chords, some quiet drums, some notes and maybe gives you a feel of the album, but maybe not.  The end of the track plays some very fast heavy chords and then gets sped up out of existence.

EXHAUST-“Wool Fever Dub” [from their self-released cassette]  This song has a big thumping beat and some cool echoed harmonics on the guitar. This basic song structure runs through a 3 minute instrumental with a different “chorus” and some intense drumming at the end.

HANGEDUP-“(Re)View From The Ground (remix)”  This is a very catchy, fun remix.  Noisy clattering drums and all kinds of feedback squalls keep this propulsive track moving—this is my kind of dance remix.

BLACK OX ORKESTAR-“Toyte Goyes In Shineln”  This track comes from their album Ver Tanzt? And is one of my favorite of their songs from this disc.  An Acoustic guitar and bass play a simple melody over what I assume is quiet Hebrew singing.

SACKVILLE-“This Machine”  This is an unreleased track from the band.  It is a simple downbeat folk song with a really catchy chorus.  I like Sackville a lot but haven’t mentioned their full length yet–coming soon.

SILVER MT. ZION-“Iron Bridge To Thunder Bay” This is an unreleased track from the Rusted Satellites session, it begins with squealing feedback that slowly changes pitch until the thudding drums and bass come in.  They play a rumbling rhythm underneath the otherwise noisy sounds.  After 6 minutes, the song ends in squalls of feedback until the last minute just echoes until the end.

SOFA-“String Of Lights” [from the self released cassette].  I really like Sofa and wish they’d released more music.  This song actually sounds a bit like the Black Ox Orkestar song above-a- slow broody acoustic piece, but I love the way the chorus brightens the song.

POLMO POLPO-“Dreaming (…Again)”  This track is described as “constructed of materials from the Like Hearts Swelling sessions”  It’s a pretty, upbeat song with some slide guitars and a groovy rhythm.

RE: “Slippage” [unreleased track from the Mnant sessions]  This song has clanging percussion and oscillating keyboards which make this soundscape interesting and compelling.

FLY PAN AM-“Tres Tres ‘Avant'” is an improvisation with Tim Hecker and Christof Migone.  There’s a funky bass and drums with some groovy keyboards.

1-SPEED BIKE-“Fair Warning” [ remix of “New Blue Monday” from their album].  The track starts with a person saying “Okay we’ll call this one Fair Warning.”  You can hear the music (primarily the guitar echoed) and the riff from New Order’s “Blue Monday” and then he starts reciting passages in a great Canadian accent: “heroin crop in Afghanistan is 3 times higher this year than last year because the Taliban got taken out and replaced with the Americans.”  “We don’t want funerals because people like to party too much, Capice?”  The second half of the song is a lot of swirling statics and noise with repeated notes.

FRANKIE SPARO-“See My Film” [working mix of an unreleased song].  This song has a sprinkling of guitar notes and Sparo’s mellow but rough voice singing a cool melody.  The addition of a violin melody really elevates the song.  The end is even better as he adds another vocal line and some da das making it even catchier.

GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR-“Outro” This is a live performance of a concert finale recorded in France on 14 May 2003.  This slow song opens with glockenspiel and strings–a slow, pretty melody that evolves over 7 minutes to add a bigger string section.  The last 2 minutes include a very nice violin solo that plays over the top of the rest of the band.  GYBE has never officially released a live album, so this is a good opportunity to hear what they can do live.

[READ: August 20, 2016] Land

This is a book about Anthony Gormley’s five statues on Landmark Trust Property.

The five statues in this book are life-sized cast iron sculptures installed in five Landmark Trust sites across the British Isles from May 2015 to May 2016.  Saddell Bay, Mull of Kintyre; South West Point, Lundy; Clavell Tower, Kimmeridge Bay; Martello Tower, Aldeburgh, and Lengthsman’s Cottage, Lowsonford.

The sculptures are by Antony Gormley, the photos of the sculptures are by Clare Richardson and the text is by Jeanette Winterson.  Winterson is the only person I’d heard of in this book but as soon as I flipped through the pages, I was instantly struck by the sculptures.

Gormley works with the human form in very heavy sculptural designs.  There’s another book about his work called Human that shows even more of his sculptures. (more…)

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harpaugSOUNDTRACK: LAND OF KUSH-The Big Mango [CST097] (2013).

mangoOsama Shalibi is how Sam Shaibi is credited on this album.  He is the composer and creator of The Big Mango, although he does not appear on it.

Some background that may or may not be useful.  This comes from Popmatters:

“Big Mango” is the nickname for Cairo and The Big Mango is a love letter from composer Osama (Sam) Shalabi to his new home, Cairo, and all of its tumults and contradictions…. Reveling in free-jazz noise, rock rhythms, and the radical propulsion that Shalabi encountered on trips to Dakar, Senegal, the album weaves the divine spirit unleashed through fury and joy and dance into an utterly fascinating whole…  This pinging between controlled pandemonium and something beautiful, strident, transcendent, is not accidental. Shalabi is tackling the nature of change and the place of women in Arab culture on Big Mango, and by so clearly blurring the strange and the celebratory, he suggests that even sweeping, radical change need not be a revolution, but perhaps a way of life, movement as vital force in the universe.

With an introduction like that it’s hard not to want to love this record.  But a with everything Shalibi does, he is always trying to push boundaries and attitudes.  And so, this album has some songs that are really fun ad/or pretty and some songs that feel like (but apparently are not) wild improvisations that test the limit of your patience for experimentation.

As I mentioned, Shalibi doesn’t play on this –I would have loved to hear his oud, but instead we hear all kinds of interesting Western and Eastern instruments: setar (is a Persian version of the sitar), flutes, saxophones, piano, balafon (a wooden xylophone), hand drums: riqq (a type of tambourine), darbuka (goblet drum), and tablas (like bongos) and of course, guitars and bass.

“Faint Praise” opens the disc with 3 and a half minutes of Middle Eastern music quietly played with a rather free form vocal over the top.  The vocals are a series of wails and cries (and almost animalistic yips).  It sounds like an orchestra warming up, and indeed, the Constellation blurb says:

These opening six minutes are an inimitable destabilizing strategy of Shalabi’s – his lysergic take on an orchestra ‘warming up’ – that serves to introduce most of the instrumental voices and the montage of genres that will form the rest of the work

It comes abruptly to a halt with “Second Skin,”  a much more formal piano piece—structured notes that end after a few minutes only to be joined by a saxophone solo that turns noisy and skronking and nearly earsplitting.

After some dramatic keyboard sounds, “The Pit (Part 1)” becomes the first song with vocals (and the first song that is really catchy).  It begins with a jolly sax line which is accompanied by another sax and a flute before the whole band kicks in with a refreshingly catchy melody.  For all that Shalibi likes exploration, he has a real gift for melody as well.  The lovely lead vocals on this track are by Ariel Engle.  It’s very catchy, with a somewhat middle eastern setar riff and those voices.  When the song stops and it’s just voices, it’s really beautiful.  The song is 7 minutes long and I love the way the last 30 seconds shift gears entirely to a more dramatic, slower section.  This section is so great, I wish it lasted longer.

“The Pit (Part 2)” is only two minutes long.  It’s a quiet coda of piano and flute.  After about a minute, a low saxophone melody kicks in, it is slowly joined by other instruments and Engle’s voice.  Unfortunately I can’t really tell what she’s singing, but it sounds very nice.

“Sharm El Bango” is a jazzy song with hand drums and all kinds of space age samples spinning around the song.  I really like when the flute melody takes over and the song become quite trippy.

“Mobil Ni” is the second song with vocals.  It begins with some strings instruments and hand drums over a slow bass line.  Then Katie  Moore;s voice come s in with a gentle lovely vibrato.  Her voice is a little smoother than Engle’s.  The song ends with a mellow section.  And then there’s a trumpet blast that signals the beginning of “St. Stefano.”  The trumpet gives way to brief explorations off free-jazz type before turning giving way to a bowed section with resonating bass notes.

“Drift Beguine” returns to catchy territory with a full Middle Eastern musical phrase and Elizabeth Anka Vajagic’s lovely voice raging from high to scratchy and breathy.  Around 4 minutes when the pace picks up, it’s really quite fun.

The final track is the only one that really rocks.  “The Big Mango” has a big catchy guitar riff and hand drums filled in by Molly Sweeney’s rock vocals.  The song ends the disc as a kind of fun celebration.

As with most of Shalibi’s releases, it’s not for everyone.  But there’s a lot of great stuff hear, if you’re willing to experiment.

[READ: August 25, 2016] “Don the Realtor”

I hate to contribute anymore attention to Trump.  But it’s hard to pass up a chance to read Martin Amis, especially when he eviscerate his targets so eloquently.  Hopefully Trump’s voice will soon disappear from the airways and we can go back to forgetting about him.

Ostensibly this is a review of “two books by Donald Trump,” The Art of the Deal (1987) and Crippled America (2015).

Amis begins, as he usually does, by getting to the point: “Not many facets of the Trump apparition have so far gone unexamined, but I can think of a significant loose end.  I mean his sanity: What is the prognosis for his mental healthy given the challenges that lie ahead?”

Some basic questions come up about Trump: “Is his lying merely compulsive, or is he an outright mythomaniac, constitutionally unable to distinguish non-truth from truth.  Amis adds that “Politifact has ascertained that Donald’s mendacity rate is just over 90 percent, so the man who is forever saying he ‘tells it lie it is’ turns out to be nearly always telling it like it isn’t.”

But the Trump lying machine has grown from the rubble of the G.O.P. which “has more or less adopted the quasi slogan ‘there is no downside to lying.'” (more…)

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eaveptotterSOUNDTRACK: ELIZABETH ANKA VAJAGIC-Nostalgia/Pain EP [CST035] (2005).

This album is considered an EP, probably because it runs about 33 minutes. And yet with 3 songs and one of them nearly 20 minutes long, it feels like a much bigger release.

The first song, “Nostalgia” is 17 minutes long and begins with three minutes of scratchy violin “warm up” sounds.  Around 3 minutes guitars start playing some simple chords which gives the violin some direction.  Around 4 minutes’ Vajagic voice comes in, throaty and raw like a wounded PJ Harvey crossed with Patti Smith.  The song doesn’t vary all that much in the 17 minutes, but it’s her voice that carries the anguish and pain of the song along.  The interesting touch of the scratching guitars on the edges gives more angst to the song.  Starting around 12 minutes, the song kind of devolves into a series of noises –clicking drums, scratching violins.  A kind of free-form exploration like the beginning was.

So although the song is 17 minutes, it’s really only about nine of actual song.  The rest is sort of an experimental jam, with the volume down quite low in comparison.

Song 2, “Pain” is 12 minutes and opens with a slow guitar melody.  But the real focus is Vajagic’s voice because the instrumentation is basically a guideline.  Until, that is, the 4 minute mark comes around, when the guitar turns electric and more powerful and EAV’s voice goes away for about 3 minutes.  The melody is simple but has a good yearning and building quality with an interesting slow guitar solo meandering around.  Around 8 minutes she begins singing again, repeating the original vocal melody but now with screaming guitars behind her–it’s quite a change and a cathartic introduction of new sounds.  The ending kind of drifts away without ever really letting go.

The final sing is only 4 minutes.  It opens with cracking sounds and a music box.  When the song proper starts there’s more quiet guitars and EAV’s voice and that’s all the song is–like a microcosm of the longer songs and somewhat more powerful for its condensed nature.   Although I do prefer the louder more angsty music she makes, this is a nice showcase for her restraint.

This is the last record that I’m aware of her releasing.

[READ: April 26, 2014] Lord Tottering: An English Gentleman

I saw this comic strip book at work and decided it was interesting looking and might be fun to read.  The title made me laugh as did the Registered Trademark “Tottering-By-Gently” and is a kind of compendium of Lord Tottering comic strips.

Never heard of Lord Tottering?  Me either, but it has been appearing weekly in the magazine Country Life since 1993 and is “phenomenally successful” according to the introduction.  Which also states that Annie Tempest is one of the top cartoonists working in the UK.  (I’ve never heard of her either, but again, that doesn’t mean much).

The cast consists of Daffy Tottering, who reflects “the problems facing women in their everyday life” (if you are rich and British, and live in “their stately home in the fictional county of North Pimmshire).  She also spends time (and I feel compelled to put all of this in here because it is an amusingly long list):

“reflecting on the intergenerational tensions and the differing perspectives of men and women, as well as dieting, ageing, gardening, fashion, food, field sports, convention and much more.” [She must be exhausted].

Her husband is Dicky.  He is basically a retired rich Englishman who hunts and fishes and goes to the kind of club that is mocked endlessly in Snuff Box.

I mock this cartoon a little bit because it is pretty mockable–wealthy aristocrats suffering white people’s problems.  Think of it almost like Cathy for Rich Britons.  And yet, despite all the mocking, I got a chuckle out of a lot of the strips, and I’m sure it brings a smile to many people. (more…)

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 superheroSOUNDTRACK: ELIZABETH ANKA VAJAGIC-Stand With the Stillness of This Day [CST028] (2004).

eavlpElizabeth Anka Vajagic is a singing in the vein of Carla Bozulich (whose solo album CST would release a few years after this one).  She has a powerful, raw voice that can go low but can also rage.  She has a lot of control over her voice (which is seems sometimes Bozulich doesn’t) which leads to a lot of tension-filled songs.  EAV plays guitar and some piano.  These songs are also filled with cello, harmonium and an oud.  The songs are slow but powerful, and her voice suits the melodies very well–dark and full of longing.

“With Hopes Lost” has that mournful keening vocal, and the cello really provides that hopeless-feeling component.  “Around Here” is a dark stormy song with aching strings and piano.  “Where You Wonder” is a dark song but with a fight left in it–resistance to the darkness it feels.  The song feels mostly sparse until 4 and half minutes when it rages with a screaming guitar solo and big bold chords.  “Iceland” has probably the most fun chorus of the bunch, something actually sing-alongable.    The next song is called “Why.”  I’m always suspicious of a song called “Why” and this one is a little deservedly so–vague statements are not really anyone’s forte.  She has the keening down well, but it feels a little flat–brevity helps on this one.  “And the Sky Lay Still” opens with a slow echoing guitar, and as it slowly builds, ther’s a great vocal melody that builds for the verse  “Sleep with Dried Up tears” is an acoustic song.  It’s definitely a bit of a downer after the intensity of the album (which is dark but powerful).

EAV is definitely not for everyone.  It depends on your taste for screaming and, your taste for strings instead of heavy guitars to accompany those screams.

[READ: April 23, 2014] The Adventures of Superhero Girl

I grabbed this book from the library because I like Hicks’ work.  When I brought it home, Sarah thought that I brought it for her because it is on her Hub Reading Challenge List.  But no, I liked Hicks enough for myself (so selfish–although I did let her read it first).  She loved it, and so did I.

The Adventures of Superhero Girl is an online comic which Hicks seems to have started in 2010.  Online it is black and white (this book is done with colors by Chris Peters). I didn’t check to see if this is the entire series, but I assume it is. It went on hiatus in 2012 and has been eerily silent ever since.  So at least we have this pretty hardcover document of this hilarious series.

The strip is a genuine, honest to god, comic strip–8 panels and a punchline!  (okay most have fewer than 8 panels, but that’s the set up).  It’s sort of a goof on superheroes, but as the introduction by Kurt Busiek points out, it is really not a parody of the genre.  Superhero Girl is a superhero, with powers (but not amazing powers) and she does help people and she suffers angst from it.  But Hicks plays around with the most basic tropes of super heroes.

Superhero Girl, first of all, doesn’t have a superhero name.  She’s not hugely muscular, she’s not super sexy, she doesn’t wear a sexy costume.  She’s a young Canadian girl in a mask and (sometimes) a cape. She doesn’t have an agonizing backstory.  She just has superpowers and wants to help people. (more…)

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The Land of Kush makes music that I would describe as challenging to Western ears.  Sam Shalibi has always played middle eastern music (he’s a master of the oud) and he has usually incorporates it with varying degrees of poppiness into a western style.  The LoKELO is one of the most overt blendings of the two styles.

Land of Kush pretty much throws all rules into the wind.  My first listen to this record I thought it was just too all over the place to be any good.  But after really digging in to it…man, is it solidly cool.

The first track “The 1st and the Last” has a robotic voice reciting a modified lyric of “Helter Skelter” which seems to be called Helter Smegma (“When I get to ass I go back to top….you may be a dancer but you ain’t no porno.”)  The more you listen to the voice, the more you realize the lyrics are just really vulgar and obscene.  This creepy computer voice is layered over the top of a middle eastern keening female voice.  (I’m sure there’s a name for this kind of singing, but I don’t know what it is).  There’s beautiful middle eastern music in the background, but the combination is very unsettling.  Then there’s 2 minutes of simple oud instrumental.

The song morphs into the 17 minute “Scars.”  “Scars” opens with a hypnotizing middle eastern melody and sultry vocals from Elizabeth Anka Vajagic.  After about 7 minutes, the computerized voice comes back.  At the 11 minute mark, the music stops and Vajagic comes back with some solo vocals–she has a very beautiful voice.  The song ends with a somber string section (which I assume is not a violin).

Track 3, “Boo” is listed as an improvisation of clarinet and contrebasse based on “Scars.”  I don’t really see the connection and although I like imrov, I actually prefer the written out pieces on the disc.

Track 4 is the 9 minute “Tunnel Vision.”  It opens slowly with Katie Moore’s delicate voice singing over acoustic music and bird sounds.  At about 7 minutes, a wild saxophone solo kicks in.  It’s low and bassy and very different from the rest of the song, as is the tempo, provided by some wild drums.

“Fisherman” brings back the computer voice (“How I love to fuck a dyke…” this is the easiest to understand and probably the dirtiest.  It really seems like lyrics from another song, but I can’t find it online–although  listening closely there is some spin on “Magic Bus” going on (“stick in the test tube to impregnate you–too much magic bus…I’m so nervous because all the while–too much magic bus–you don’t know you’re going to pop out a child”)).  After about 3:15, the song proper starts.  This is my favorite song of the bunch.  Ariel Engle’s vocals are transcendent.  I’m still not even sure what she’s singing about but her voice is amazing.  There’s an intermission of computer voice which rewrites the lyrics to “Total Eclipse of the Heart”–think x-Rated Weird Al than anything else.  And then at the 9 and a half-minute mark, Engle returns with an amazing vocal line over a great baritone sax riff.  And when Engle starts wailing, it is amazing. I could listen to that section for ten minutes easily–shame it’s only two.  But there’s another beautiful middle eastern string solo at the end of this song too.  Must be the oud.

“Monogamy” opens with a slow and steady drumbeat while Molly Sweeney sings a fascinating alphabet (B is for Beelzebub…F is for the fucking that you did, outside).  There’s a cool chorus to this recitation, it’s another real highlight of the disc.  The middle section sounds a bit like Pink Floyd’s “Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict”

The final track is “Like the Thread of a Spider.”  It is a slow acoustic song with vocals by the people of the Syrian Arab Republic. It’s a beautiful somber ending to an exciting disc.

This is not for everyone; it’s not even for most people.  But if you’re looking for something adventurous, try this out.  It’s challenging and rewarding.

[READ: December 14, 2011] “Stone Mattress”

I haven’t read a Margaret Atwood piece in a while and this one was totally worth the wait.

It’s a very simple story and it opens with a wonderful grabber: “At the outset Verna had not intended to kill anyone.  What she had in mind was a vacation, pure and simple.”

Verna decided to go on a trip to the Arctic.  We learn through the course of the story that Verna chose the Arctic because although she is older, she’s still quite fit–not bathing suit in the Caribbean fit, but certainly arctic wear fit.  And since she’s just lost her 4th husband, she’s sort of on the prowl again.

As the story progresses we learn a bit about Verna’s history.  She’s been married four times, and in each case her husband has died–never under suspicious circumstances, although, maybe, Verna’s medical knowledge could have assisted in saving (or dispatching) them.  But that’s all the past.  She’s a wealthy older woman now.  (more…)

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This is a compilation from Constellation Records.  It features mostly unreleased tracks and turns out to be a great sampler for both the fan of the label and the novice.

Since the label never had any “hits” per se, they couldn’t really release a “greatest hits” collection.  But they went the extra mile by selecting rare tracks rather than just a songs from their albums,.

It also belies the idea (put forth by me as well as many others) that Constellation had “a sound.”  While they have branched further afield since this collection was released, even prior to this you can see a lot of diversity.  From the epic instrumentals of Godspeed You Black Emperor, to the noise structures of Exhaust, to the sort of spoken word of 1-Speed Bike to the viola/bass duet of HangedUp.  This compilation contains one track from pretty much every artist on their roster from the (then) new artist Elizabeth Anka Vajagic to early bands Sofa.

The Do Make Say Think track, “Winter Hymn Winter Hymn Winter Hymn” is described as a condensation of the album of that name into 5 minutes, and I believe it is).  Many of the other artists’ tracks are remixed.  But the remixes aren’t dance remixes or dub versions, they are just remixed, usually by Efrim or one of the other Hotel2Tango individuals.

If you’re a fan of the label, hunt down this disc.  If you’re not familiar with the artists, this is a great place to start.  The bands’ tracks, even the remixes are representative of the bands.  So, you get a good sense of Exhaust, 1-Speed Bike, Fly Pan Am and HangedUp.  Although the real selling point is the live track by Godspeed You Black Emperor.  It’s not one of their “real” songs per se (as it is just an outro) but it’s a nice indicator of their live show (which was one of the best live shows I’ve seen).

[READ: December 18, 2009] Shoulder-a-Coffin Kuro

I’m not sure how this book ended up in my house.  I was looking at a pile of graphic novels and there was this one.  I hadn’t really noticed it before and Sarah didn’t know anything about it, so…who knows.  Anyhow, I decided to just go ahead and read it.  It turned out to be my very first manga (awwww).  And it took me a few pages to understand the style at all.

Manga primer: First off it’s written right to left (so at first I wasn’t even sure where to start the book, as this one starts without a real “start”).  Then I realized that the 4-panel style means you read all four columns down on the right and then all four columns down on the left.  And, just to complete the culture shock, you read the speech balloons on the right of the panel before the ones on the left.  After about twenty or so pages it grew easier, and by the end it wasn’t an issue anymore.  But wow!

Oh, and for a little more confusion, there are occasional full color pages thrown in, but they aren’t chapter breaks or any special pages, they just seem to be in color.

So, anyhow, on to the story. (more…)

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