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Archive for the ‘Fly Pan Am’ Category

secret-2SOUNDTRACK: SANDRO PERRI-Spaced Out EP [CST101] (2013).

cst101cover_258x242Sandro Perri, plays jazzy music and sings in a gentle falsetto. I really enjoyed his album Impossible Spaces a lot.  This 10″ EP is composed  of 3 remixes from that album.  I happen to really dislike remixes that basically take one aspect of a song, add drums to it and repeat for 5 minutes.  Most dance remixes are pretty inane.  These are a step above that.

The three tracks are Love & Light (Larry Gus – Panamix), Wolfman (Le Révélateur – Sky Mix), and How Will I? (Imugem Orihasam – Outlook Mix).

The original of Love and Life is a pretty, jazzy number with some great sounding drums and synth notes.

The remix opens with some really fast clicking and some cool wild bass synth.  Then Perri’s voice is manipulated into a kind of repeating note.  Once the song starts properly there’s a cool drums beat and repeats of Perri singing “hey” along with his voice played low in the mix.  And that’s Brett much it.  It’s simple but insanely catchy/dancey.  The song pauses in the middle and then resumes with new vocal snippets The Constellation site says the remix “employs over 500 samples extracted from the song’s stems. The result is an intricate, dense, exuberantly satisfying groove-based track that chops and channels the woozy rhythmic complexity and mellifluous vocal of the original.”

“Wolfman” is a ten minute track that I love–it has so many components and different styles. But this remix strips away pretty much all of it.  It is basically 5 and a half minutes of drums with some wavering synth lines.  About 3 minutes in some ooh oohs from the original track come in, but it’s so removed from the track that I almost wonder why bother.  Well, Constellation is there to tell us: Roger Tellier-Craig (Fly Pan Am, Pas Chic Chic), reworks “Wolfman” as a beautifully building swarm of layered loops and long delays – an homage of sorts to Perri’s own Polmo Polpo sound palette.”  And if that’s what you are expecting, he does it well.

I also love the original of “How Will I.”  This version is very strange.  The music is stripped almost all away with just some occasional sprinkling of piano and rumblings of low notes in the background.  There are additions of synths and percussion but otherwise it is largely a stripped down song.  What I loved about the original was the music—the flutes and everything–and it’s all gone.  I do love at 7 minutes when the bass rumbles through the song, but otherwise its pretty samey.  Constellation tells us: “Japanese producer Imugem Orihasam (Fragil) extrapolates a sweet and loose abstract-House vibe from the original, bringing the highly detailed swing of the song’s live drum tracks to the fore, allowing Perri’s vocal to unfurl against a minimal, skittering, plunderphonic arrangement.”

So, this is not a release I would play very much.

[READ: October 3, 2016] Secret Coders: Paths and Portals

Secret Coders ended with a  pretty big cliffhanger.

Hopper and Eni are on to something big at their school, Stately Academy.  They have just discovered a robot which (through their own programming) has opened up a portal to a secret underground lab. But it is the lab of Mr Bee.  Oh, and that bully Josh has decided he wants to help them.  Hopper says no way, but Josh doesn’t give up.  However, he’s kind of a coward and a little dumb and Hopper is really quite mean to him back.

Eventually they all start working together–Josh has mad typing skills.  And the beginning of the book shows the trio learning to write a program for the Robot Turtle to run. Coding isn’t a terribly exciting thing to watch, but Yang and Holmes do it in a cool way that makes it rather enjoyable.  Even (or maybe especially) when the kids screw up.

But they do succeed.  Which leads to an even more secret room with dozens of robot turtles off all sizes  And that’s when Mr Bee reveals a bit about himself and Stately Academy. (more…)

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orcsSOUNDTRACK: AVEC LE SOLEIL DE SA BOUCHE-Zubberdust! [CST106] (2014).

cst106cover_258x242Avec le soleil sortant de sa bouche (With the sun out of his mouth–no translation for Zubberdust) is the creation of former Fly Pan Am bassist Jean-Sebastien Truchy.  With this album he has created a fascinating hybrid of near Krautrock repetitions with some King Crimson guitar lines and time signatures.  And interesting sung almost operatic male vocals.  Technically the disc has four songs, but songs 1 and 3 are extended suites broken into chapters.

“Face à l’instant” (Face Now parts I-IV) is the first suite.  This disc opens like Ministry–with an aggressive, fast, pounding guitar riff for 8 bars, a sharp pause and continuation of same.  After four measures of that, a quirky quiet instrumental takes over and at about a minute the heavy guitars return. Part 2 of the song starts with a funky, slightly off-kilter sounding guitar line and whistling.   About a minute into this secretion the song shifts to a quiet sequence of overlapping riffs and sounds.  About 5 minutes in, the voices start singing in wordless chants–it’s strangely catchy and slightly militaristic at the same time.  The song builds with voices until it climaxes with a stop.  Then a complex drumming pattern begins Part 3. The guitars lines resume and there are several vocals sections (I assume singing in French) that add a lot of tension to the song.  Midway through this part the song stops and that aggressive introductory guitar pummeling resumes, this time changing keys and not letting up.  New sounds and super heavy drumming are added as this brings part three to a climax.  Part 4 returns to quieter playing (and sounds a bit like Fly Pan Am in the way the guitar line as intersect.  The final section continues with the vocals and rhythms of the other three and then ends with some dramatic keyboard chords playing us out.

“Super pastiche fantastique” (Super fantastic pastiche) is the other suite.  It opens with some complex drumming and then several sequences of notes–guitar and synth that meld nicely.  Part 1 is just 3 minutes and by the end some electronic noises start overtaking the melodies.   Part 2 opens with the same melody but the electronics have been replaced by a wah-wahed guitar and more synth lines.  The song is complex and repetitive, with the only non-repeating part being the singer’s voice (no idea what he’s even saying).  The second half of part 2 (which is 7 minutes in total) ends with some sung vocals (not unlike David Byrne).  Part 3 is a 90 second interlude of very quick tinkling strings that are overwhelmed by noise and static and thudding drums.  The end of the track seems to be building up to part 4 which picks up the momentum into a great instrumental motif–intertwining guitars and electronics all with a cool bass line underneath.  After 2 and a half minutes the  song drops to drums and a funky guitar line with all kind of noises and static and voices working as transition to the cool bass line that comes in around 3 minutes.  As the song careens towards the end, the pace picks up and you can hear some intense screaming of vocals way in the distance.  The song cleans up and plays that great fast riff right up until the end when it abruptly ceases.

Tracks 2 and 4 are weird pastiches of sound. “Déja hier…” (Already yesterday…) is a four-minute song.  Interesting music plays very quietly in the background before it gets overwritten by conversation and static.  You can occasionally hear the song being played behind the noise, but it’s mostly just a weird kind of muffled noise.  “À partir de dorénavant” (From now) is similar.  You can hear a distant muddy drum and what sounds like la dinner party–tons of conversations going on at once.  It seems like the disc is going to end with 3 minutes of this, but a keyboard melody begins to slowly overtake the din.

The last minute or so is this interesting sci-f sounding synth line with warbling effects and an interesting, mellow bass.  Although it’s nowhere near as complicated as the rest of the album, it’s a cool way to end and almost feels like a segue into something else.

This album has a whole lot of styles and genres blended together into a (mostly) very cool mix of sounds.  I like it a lot, although I’ll probably skips tracks 2 and 4 most of the time.

[READ: June 15, 2016] Orcs: Forged for War

This book was a little hard to learn about because Stan Nicholls has written several novels in the Orcs series.  So when you look up his books you get a confusing list of the series and other things.  This book is not part of the series, but it is part of the overall Orcs arc. It comes just before the First Blood Trilogy.

In the intro, Nicholls tells us lot more about his whole Orcs oeuvre.  He points out that unlike Tolkien (whom he loved) his Orcs are not mindless brutes. In fact, in his books, the orcs are the heroes and the humans are the ones who have along and messed things up.  He says that anyone unfamiliar with his orcs books should have no trouble following this book.

And that is true to a degree.  One thing that it behooves an author/artist to do is to make sure that everyone understands who all of the characters/races are in his/her book.  He does give a brief summary in the intro, but that doesn’t really help because there’s no visual guide.

Humans are divided into two camps.  The Manifold (Manis) pursue ancient pagan ways.  The Unity (Unis) are monotheistic.  They are both fanatics but the Unis have more bigotry and demagoguery.

This book opens with the Unis fighting the Manis.  And then the Orcs enter the fray but it’s not always clear whose side the Orcs on, if any. Regardless of which side they are on, they are willing to fight and kill whomever (there is much much bloodhsed and a shocking amount of vulgarity in the book). (more…)

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clowns SOUNDTRACK: LE FLY PAN AM: N’écoutez pas [CST031] (2004).

flypanam31N’écoutez pas (Do Not Listen) was the third and final full length album from Constellation’s Fly Pan Am (or in this case Le Fly Pan Am).  There are several short tracks on the disc as well as two 11 minutes songs

“Brûlez suivant, suivante!” (Burn Next, Next!) Opens the disc and hints that it’s going to be a standard rock album—4×4 drums and a dense buzzy electric guitar.  And even when the song proper starts, there’s chanted worded in French and some noisy guitar—its very far from the bass and funky glitchy stuff of previous albums.  The song has very conventional element—a drum break where one might clap along and what sounds like people singing lalalalalala, but all under a veneer of noise and decay that makes it anything but poppy.  There’s a deep voice speaking insistently in French and way in the background a person screaming.  So, really it’s rather unconventional, but within a relatively “normal” framework.  “Ex éleveurs de renards argentés” (Ex breeders silver foxes) is the noise of completely detuned guitars getting plucked and strummed for 30 seconds until a piano plays a chord and all else stops.  It seems like a song will begin but, no, more noises—industrial waves and cars honking takes over.  And then a cacophony of voices begins talking all over each other (including a couple in English).  It’s all over after about 2 minutes.

“Autant zig-zag” (As much zig-zag) is a totally apt name for this song.  This is the first 11 minute track.  After a minute or so introduction, the song comes in with a propulsive bass (not funky at all like the last album) and the song feels like it’s ready to rock.  And it does.  It keeps up this rhythm for a bit and then shifts to a new part with wordless vocals.  There’s even a call and response section with sung words and ooh ooohs as response.  The song shifts to a kind of pummeling section that continues for several minutes until the end.  It contains pretty much everything the band does.  “Buvez nos larmes de métal” (Drink our metal tears) is a noise collage with dramatic movie soundtrack type music played behind the static and distant voices and noises.

“Pas à pas step until” (Step by Step until) has a commanding one, two, three, pause, four, riff going on that is at once catchy and noisy.  The song proper comes in with whispered singing and a wild bass line.  Alexandre St-Onge contributes his wonderful chaos to this song which has some really catchy backing vocals in it

“…” opens side two with what sounds like a voice repeating Fly Pan Am over an over amidst the sound of someone else chewing.  It segues into “Très très ‘retro'” “Very Very ‘Retro’” is the other 11 minute song.  It has two guests, Dominique Petrin on vocals and Tim Heck on electronics.  The song opens with a high-pitched bass and some great counterpoint rhythms.   There’s more hidden vocals throughout the song  Around three minutes in, the bass gets funky.  This runs on for several minutes with some interesting sound effects thrown in until there’s a loud pop and silence.   And then another pop and organ music takes over.  At about 9 minute the song resumes the funky bass line. Again, the band has crammed a lot of stuff into this song.

“Vos rêves revers” (Your dreams setback) has a nice bass sound with some ringing guitar notes.  There’s whispered vocals that sing a melody of sorts.  It’s a fairly conventional song—catchy and bouncy with vocals and everything (true they are whispered and hushed vocals but they do follow a melody line).  At about 4 minutes (of 6), the songs crashes unto itself with the drums and the guitars seeming to fall apart

“Ce sale désir éfilé qui sortant de ma bouche” (This dirty tapered desire coming out of my mouth) has a deep echoing drum kick which keeps a beat.  In the distant background a keening voice kind of follows the melody.  The disc ends with “Le faux pas aimer vous souhaite d’être follement ami” (The false not love you madly want to be friend).  It’s a one minute song with sliding guitars and rock drums which propel this to as close to punk as the band has gotten.  There’s chanting and excitement and fun and then the whole song unravels after about 40 seconds at the end with a sloppy piano denouement.

And that was it from this avant-garde band. The members went on to make lots of other music, Jonathan Parant went on to form Feu Thérèse. Felix Morel has played drums with all kind of interesting bands including Et Sans.  Roger Tellier-Craig has been in Et Sans and Set Fire to Flames among others.  And Jean-Sebastian Truchy has played in several bands including Avec le soleil sortant de sa bouche.

[READ: February 6, 2016] City of Clowns

In the afterword to this book, Alarcón explains how it as written.  He lived in Lima, Peru for a year, teaching.  But while he was there, he had writer’s block.  So he moved to a farmhouse in the middle of America–pure solitude.  And there he wrote the story “City of Clowns” (which I read back in 2013 in the New Yorker) in English.  Sheila Alvarado talked to him about turning the book into a graphic novel.  And so it was completed (after much labor, he says) in a slightly condensed Spanish edition to be released in Spain.  And then, eventually, it was translated into English again, from the Spanish graphic novel.

Since the story really doesn’t change from the short story version, I’m going to put my original comments here:

It opens with Oscarcito going to the hospital because his father died the night before.  He finds his mother mopping floors because his father’s bill was unpaid.  And in that very first paragraph, she introduces her son to Carmela—the woman whom his father left them for.  She was mopping the floor with Oscarcito’s  mother.  He is confused and enraged by this.

His half brothers are also there.  He had never met them before, preferring to stay away from his father’s other life.  But he saw them in front of him and clearly saw that they were related to him.  But the most galling thing was that although he was the oldest of all the children, they were clearly the chosen children—after all, his father stayed with them.

Then we learn about his father’s life.  He was born in Cerro de Pasco and moved to Lima when his young family was still young.  He worked hard in semi-legitimate businesses and then brought his family to the city.  Young Oscarcito, age 8, loved it.  But his mother hated missing her family in Cerro de Pasco.  And now they were living with his father who was practically a stranger. His father worked hard and succeeded, but he was rarely home.

Between flashbacks to his father’s story we see that Oscarcito is now a reporter for the local newspaper and he has been asked to write about the clowns that are prevalent around the city.  Oscarcito is on a bus when a clown approaches.  The clown is pelted by water balloons but still manages to climb aboard the bus and peddle his wares—gaining a few coins for his “act.”  Oscarcito is not interested in the subject and puts it off.

So he travels to his mother’s house to see how she is doing, but a neighbor there tells him she has been living with Carmela since his father got sick.  His mother was embarrassed by this and asked the neighbor not to say anything to him.

His mother had been a cleaning lady since they moved to Lima.  She worked for the Azcártes, a wealthy local family who treated her very well and treated Oscarcito practically like their own son.  Oscar was even sent to a nice school where he was welcomed until they realized where he was from.  Gangs would steal anything from anyone, and were called Piranhas.  And that became Oscar’s nickname at school.  And soon he was made fun of by just about everyone, but especially by one boy.

A flashback then shows that Oscarcito went to work with his father doing construction on a few occasions—they worked very hard on expansions of people’s houses—working hard and working well and making good improvements.  But all the while, they were waiting patiently until they could rob them of all of their fine things.

So when he found his father was working for the father of the boy who made fun of him, he wanted in, and he stole the boy’s suit.

Finally, after putting off his article for ages, Oscarcito meets and interviews a clown.  And that clown tells him how he started and invites him along.  And Oscarcito does.  He finds that he likes the anonymity of the job.

All of the threads come to a head as the story reaches its close—where Oscar will confront his mother and deal with his newfound joy at being a clown.

The ending was very powerful and I enjoyed this story immensely.

There are few details from the original story that have been changed (and I amended my comments accordingly).

There is also an extra scene added of him dating a girl named Carla who walked on stilts.  There’s an erotic moment which is really interesting and which brings a whole new level of fascination to Oscar’s clown life.

Obviously the biggest change is Alvarado’s illustrations.  She does an excellent job recreating these scenes much as I imagined them.  I really  enjoyed the way she worked within the mens’ professions–putting words on bricks as his father was laying them, hanging papers up to dry with text on them, and using excellent distinctions of black and white to show the different settings in Oscar’s life.

The biggest change I think is the depiction of Oscar in his clown suit.  It’s nothing like I imagined and is all the better for it.  Alarcón says that now this is “its true and definitive form” of the book, and I imagine that this is what I will think of when I think of the story.

For ease of searching, I include: Daniel Alarcon.

 

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redSOUNDTRACK: LE FLY PAN AM-fpamCeux qui inventent n’ont jamais vécu (?) [CST019] (2002).

After their previous EP, Le Fly Pan am (note the addition of the Le) come back with an album that can be described as funky.  True, it’s weird funky that gets dismantled while its going along, but it’s still pretty funky.

They wouldn’t be them if there weren’t some crazy noises.  And so the first song (parenthetical translations are from Wikipedia), “Jeunesse sonique, tu dors (en cage)” (“Sonic Youth, You Sleep (In a Cage)”) is just noise and static for 90 seconds before leading to the first song proper:

“Rompre l’indifférence de l’inexitable avant que l’on vienne rompre le sommeil de l’inanimé” (“Break the Indifference of the Inevitable Before We Come to Break the Sleep of the Inanimate”) which kicks in with a really funky bass guitar and drum section. It’s really catchy and almost danceable. But throughout the song’s ten minutes there are elements of destruction going on. There’s screeches that sound like a dentist’s drill. About a minute in, the guitars just seems to stop playing riffs and just tart going crazy–playing loosened strings and just random notes like a beginner (even though the original rhythm is still there).  That funkiness stays for about 5 minutes until the songs shifts gear into a loping melody with a big bass and simple repetitive guitar lines. And then it kind of falls apart all together with some sounds like broken strings and lots of chatter (in French).  At 7 and a half minute it resumes at breakneck speed with the drums and bass pounding away and all kinds of effects splashing on top. The song ends with low rumbling noise before jumping into….

“Partially sabotaged distraction partiellement sabotée” (“Partially Sabotaged Distraction Partially Sabotaged”) This song opens with a four-note, slightly off-key guitar and then loping bass riff that reminds me of SST Records bass guitar of the 80s. It switches between this and a slightly funkier sounding section. But the destruction is apparent from the get go as early in the song, the sound just completely drops out on a couple occasions, making you think the disc is broken (it isn’t).  The song starts to get more intense as the notes seem to get faster and more insistent (those repetitive notes and ringing guitars just seem to scream tension).

“Univoque/Équivoque” (“Univocal / Equivocal”) opens with static and then a very funky bass line.  There a music box playing over the top and some quiet guitars. About half way through the bass ends but the music box (tiny and distorted) continues.  At 3:30 a new bass line, similar to the previous but with a new section added pops up.  It’s a simple song showcasing their groove and their noise.

“Arcades-Pamelor” starts with low distorted noises.  Like the first “song” this is mostly sound effects and things slowed down. Until a screaming noisy static takes over about half way through.  It’s really quite unpleasant.

“Sound-support surface noises reaching out to you” opens with another funky bass and drums and some simple guitar notes. About a minute in a sound emerges that sounds like a skipping CD (but it’s not your CD).   And then a new, different bass pattern emerges with lots of noisy percussion(sounds like people banging things). The skipping sounds seems to work as a segue between section, with some great funky parts and and then the final section which opens with what sounds like a mildly out of tune guitar ran and more great bass. This really enjoyable section winds up glitching to a halt with the  sound of a skipping record player.

“Erreur, errance: interdits de par leurs nouvelles possibilités” (“Wandering Error: Prohibited by Their Opportunities”) has the sounds of sticks clacking together and silverware dropping and mechanical sounds.  And they all seem to somehow settle into a rhythm of piano notes. Unlike the other tracks this one is pretty consistent—strange noises and a simple piano motif.  It’s also probably the least interesting of the bunch.

The disc ends with “La vie se doit d’être vécue ou commençons a vivre” (“Life Must Be Lived or Begun to Be Lived”) another great, funky bass and piano line, with some interesting guitar sounds round the corners. This song is so catchy, it’s wonderful.  After about 2 minutes there’s another breakdown. The music all stops except for the guitars which sound like they are getting strangled.   The second half of the song has the same funky bass but very different guitars and lots of squeals and feedback. After a couple more glitches at 6 minutes in, the bass takes off playing fast rocking riff as the guitar tries to keep up. It’s such a satisfying ending that it’s hugely disappointing that it only last 45 seconds before the album ends.

While it was always obvious that Fly Pan Am were going to play weird experimental stuff, it wasn’t clear before just how funky and dancey they could be too.  If you can handle some noise in your dance, this is a great album.

[READ:January 10, 2016] Red Handed

I absolutely loved this graphic novel.

I had never heard of Kindt before and I didn’t really know what to expect from the book, but I certainly didn’t expect the complicated and super clever plot and structure that this book had.

It opens with a newspaper story that tells us about Detective Gould’s ten years on the force.  Since his arrival there have been no unsolved murders.  He credits the rise in technology for his success.  (continued on A12) and then it moves into the graphic format.  It is headed Detective Gould (in black and white).  Then it shows some mug shots of suspects in color.  And it turns out that these people’s stories will comprise the bulk of the book.

The next chapter opens with a woman fleeing a diner with a stool.  She worked there and is told the stool is coming out of her paycheck,.   We learn that stealing chairs is kind of her thing.  And then we see what her next acquisition after this stool is.

The next chapter is called the Jigsaw and it involves a man who is an art dealer.  As the story opens he steals a giant painting form a woman he has picked up at a bar. And then we learn what he did with it and how he made his reputation.

After he is caught, the story shifts to a series of dialogue boxes on a black background in which Sgt Gould is speaking to a woman who Sgt Gould assumes is connected to all of the cases in the book.  She is playing innocent and has explanations for everything.

After this there is another black and white section designed to look like newspaper stories of The Detective’s Wife  (in which the two are sweet together) and then Tess’s True Heart in which we learn that Tess (whoever that is) is a very smart girl.

The next chapter is The Ant in which an artist wants to tell a story told from the point of view of an ant.  But since the ant cannot write, it must collect letters from the newspaper.  This turns into an art installation in which the author’s editor begins finding the words all over town and using them to tell the story (it’s much more convoluted than that and really clever).  Then we learn that Tess is the author’s editor–the first connection is built.

And after that short piece, we see more black and white stories from Detective Gould and Tess’ True Heart.

The next chapter is The Forgotten about a sleight of hand magician who has stopped doing magic and has become a pickpocket.

The Repair Man is about an elevator repair man who takes pictures up women’s skirts when they are stuck between floors.  And then he begins selling them to a smut dealer.  The way these pictures connect to the rest of the story is amazing.

The next section is The Performance Artist in which a woman is set up to look like she is cheating on her husband (elaborate ruse once again).

The Escape Artist tells the story of a car thief and how so many thieves think they are going to stop but they are afraid of losing the rush.  Well, this guy retired for real.  Until he ran into Tess.  He knows from long ago.  And she brings him back to the city.

Finally, The Fire Starter is about a guy who gets paid to start fights with the intention of a payout coming somewhere down the line.

The last fifty or so pages show how all these crimes, all these cases solved by Detective Gould, are tied together.  And the way it is told just gets more and more interesting.

This was an outstanding book.  I loved the art and design–the various ways that the medium was used to tell the story.  I loved that it was confusing but not too confusing and that it unraveled in the way it did.   I really can’t say enough about this book.  This was another big win for First Second in their #10yearsof01 celebration.

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americusSOUNDTRACK: FLY PAN AM-Sédatif en fréquences et sillons EP [CST011] (2000).

330px-SedatifsEnFrequencesCover This is an EP that works as a kind of remixes and deconstructs further the debut. There are three songs, the first is fourteen minutes, the second is 11 and the final is 4.  As the Constellation site describes the disc:

This 3-song EP of fractured, tape-infested experiments is an intransigent slab of self-referential auto-criticism. The band was sticking to its agenda of acutely self-conscious musical manipulations, re-working its own materials and assumptions to yield new compositions of uncompromising formalism. Side A is a medley of sorts, consisting of phrases and fragments reconfigured and replayed from their self-titled debut (Fly Pan Am). Various melodies are reassembled and played off of one another, creating an extended live remix with blissful passages of layered guitars, drones, sampled backing vocal lines, and the requisite incidental noise break in the middle of the piece. The result is something like a ‘Stars On 45’-style musical encapsulation of the entire debut record.

“De cercle en cercle, ressasser et se perdre dans l’illusion née de la production de distractions et multiplier la statique environnante!” (“From Circle to Circle, Rehash and Get Lost in the Illusion Born of Production and Increase the Static Distractions Surrounding!”) opens with the sounds of machinery rumbling and then slowing to a stop. The song proper opens with a rapid bass line and squalls of feedback.   Some beautiful guitars play over the noise. More guitars come in along with all kinds of crazy noises—scrapes and scratches, radios and distortion.

The propulsive music stops around 3 and half minutes in and the noise takes over. There’s loud noises and static and all kinds of things. Then the noise shifts to what sounds like someone emptying a bag of ball bearings onto a metal table.  And then maybe making microwave popcorn.  About five minutes later (seriously) a drum starts playing in the background and then a guitar line that references the debut album starts up.  It sounds a bit like the two note guitar from “Dans ses cheveux soixante circuits” with the voices from “Nice est en feu!” thrown on top.  And then at 11:20 that two note half-tone thing from “Dans ses cheveux soixante circuits” resumes, but it’s only for 20 or so seconds before different sounds come to take away the repetitiveness (although the guitars do continue that until the end of the song).  It seems like the band wanted to revisit their debut but also wanted to make sure that it was properly buried under chaos as well.

The second song “Éfférant/Afférant” (“Unrelated / Related”) (11 minutes long) is described as “somnambulist clockwork repetition.” The bass and drums are kinda funky with some simple guitar chords playing in the background. While things do change somewhat throughout song (including notes that seem inappropriate at times), the main source of change is the weird electronic sounds that play over the top. The noise starts to grow louder and louder around 9 minutes and just when it gets unbearable it fades out to the end of the song.

“Micro Sillons” (“LPs”) is only 4 minutes long and it opens with static and noises—different ones in each ear.  After about three minutes of that, the noise mutates into a kind of machine-like hum.

This is definitely a challenging listen.  There are rewards to be had, and it s amazing what good songwriters these guys are, if they’d ever let their songs stay unmolested.

[READ: December 17, 2015] Americus

I didn’t really have any idea what this book was about–the title Americus evokes many different things.

So imagine my surprise to find out that this First Second graphic novel [go First Second!, #10yearof01] tackles the idea of banning books in schools.  It looks at religion, freedom of speech and middle school.

The story is about Neil Barton, an unpopular kid who loves fantasy and books, especially the Apathea Ravenchilde series (such a great name). Neil and his friend Danny race to library after school because the latest volume is out.  Neil is bummed that his library could only afford one copy of the book (budget cuts!) and Danny gets it first.  And as he starts reading, the artistic style switches to the Ravenchilde world (I loved that).

Then we meet Neil’s and Danny’s families.  Neil’s parents are divorced.  He lives with his mom who is harried and exhausted.  Danny’s family is an intact nuclear family, with two younger siblings.  And we learn soon enough that his mother (and father to a degree) are very Christian. (more…)

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flypanam templarSOUNDTRACK: FLY PAN AM-Fly Pan Am [CST008] (1999).

In the Constellation canon, there were four originators: Godspeed You Black Emperor were orchestral, Do Make Say Think were jazzy, and A Silver Mt Zion had vocals.  But Fly Pan Am was the weirdest one—the played with noise, they broke up their songs, they deconstructed their own work and, especially novel to me, everything was in French on the discs.

Roger Tellier-Craig, the main force behind FPA was in GYBE as well.  So he knows post-rock.

Their debut album is a long affair–an hour’s worth of music (in all of 5 songs) taken from two different recording sessions.  (All translated titles are taken from Wikipedia).

“L’espace au sol est redessiné par d’immenses panneaux bleus…” (“The Floorspace Is Redesigned by Huge Blue Signs…”) is a 13 minute song.   There’s ringing noises as a simple melody is plucked out.  The full instrumentation kicks in adding a repetitive guitar line that seems to fall into the background behind the opening notes that are still playing out.  The guitar lines slowly gets longer and longer, almost like a game of Simon.  By around 6 minutes the song has built up a serious head of steam with the bass and drums moving quickly and the guitar getting really complex. By 7 minutes that pretty guitar has turned into a ringing feedback skronking solo which carries on for a minute or so before fading back. At around 9 minutes the song seems to retreat on itself again. The guitars fade away and the bass seems to get a bit louder with the guitars ringing out. The last minute or so resumes a kind of noisy static sound that tells you the song is over.  That’s a heck of an introduction.

“…Et aussi l’éclairage de plastique au centre de tout ces compartiments latéraux” (“…And Also the Lighting of Plastic in the Center of All Its Lateral Compartments”) is a 9 minute song that opens with more scorching guitars and rumbling bass.  The guitar switches back and forth between a two note melody and a chord (dissonant, of course). The other guitar then plays a different three note melody.  About 2:30 in some noisy feedback and samples start taking over the song.  All the music drops away except for the bass.  By 3:15, all the music had dropped out and its just noisy effects and feedback and then outer space sounds.  After about 4 minutes of that (yes, indeed) the bass comes back in playing a kind of discoey rhythm with the guitar supplying a dancey counterpoint which runs to the end of the song.  It’s their first song where something really catchy is utterly dismantled by noise.

“Dans ses cheveux soixante circuits” (“In Her Hair Are Sixty Circuits”) is 17 minutes long (!) and is one of the most abrasive songs I can recall. The song opens with both guitars each playing a two-note melody which rotates through a round. They sound lovely together as the bass and drums play a slow rhythm. The melody changes a few times and then by around 3 and a half minutes the main guitar line grows faster (6 notes instead of 2) and the background feels a bit more tense.   And then at 5:46, the whole song seems to get stuck on repeat. The bass plays a 2 note rhythm, the drums play the same pattern and the two guitars each play one note over and over.  And over.  Evidently it’s “a half-tone interval.”  And this goes on for 12 minutes.  TWELVE!  The only differences through this whole section come from the digitalia of guest electronic musician Alexandre St-Onge, but they are the most unobtrusive electronics I’ve ever heard and just seem to bubble and prickle gently onto the repetition.  It’s maddening and then trance-like and then maddening all over again.  How can they play the same thing for twelve minutes—and their rhythm remains perfect?

“Bibi à nice, 1921” (“Bibi Nice, 1921”) opens with noises and feedback (which is a nice break from the 12 minutes of repetitiveness. But you soon realize that that’s all you’re getting (aside from some distant rumbling noise in the background). It’s a very silent song. For four minutes (out of ten) and then the full band kicks in for a really rocking section—great guitar lines and propulsive bass and drums. But after two minutes, the sound drops out entirely—pure silence (enough to make you assume the disc froze). It slowly returns after 20 seconds–they are messing with us again.  At 7 minutes a new guitar line comes in—slow and pretty with a slow drum beat.  A solo plays over the top—it is primarily electronic, and sounds pretty cool.   The guitars start playing louder and the song feels like it’s going to build up into something huge, but it soon ends and turns into….

“Nice est en feu!” (“Nice Is on Fire!”) seems like it should be connected to the previous song, but it starts off very different with big bass notes playing a very slow riff.  The guitar starts playing a nice accompanying riff. At 3 minutes in, voices come in singing Ahhs in a nice melody. The liner notes say that Kara Lacy and Norsola Johnson do vocals on “Bibi à nice, 1921” and “Nice est en feu!” but I didn’t hear any vocals on “Bibi.”  At 4:30 the guitar line turns to something else and there’s suddenly a whole bunch of noise flooding the track—sounds of water rushing, maybe—but that goes away and a new melody (slightly dissonant) resumes.  With about a minute left the voices resume—angelic and soaring over the rumbling song.  It ends this weird disc on a very pretty note.

I love the crazy stuff that Fly Pan Am creates, even if some of it is hard to listen to.

[READ: February 23, 2016] Templar

I had actually started to read this graphic novel before Prince of Persia.  But when I saw in the introduction that Mechner talks about Prince of Persia, I decided to grab that one and read it first.  The two have nothing to do with each other, but sometimes it’s nice to get things on order.

Who doesn’t love stories about the Templar knights?  The whole premise of the National Treasure is predicated on them after all.  Not to mention, The Da Vinci Code and the book that he says far surpasses all Templar stories: Foucault’s Pendulum [RIP Umberto Eco].

So Jordan Mechner has done a lot of research (there’s a sizable bibliography at the end of the book) to create the story about a couple of Knights Templar.  He says that “much nonsense has been written about the Knights Templar over the years. I’m proud to say that this book has added to that sum.”  He explains that thousands of knights were indeed killed.  Some knights did escape, but the main plot he constructed probably never happened.   One of the histories he read said that “figures of no importance” did escape, and so that was the basis for Martin, Bernard, Isabelle and their gang–inconsequential Templars and their own story.

He also says (in the preface) that all of the movies about the Knights focus on the treasure, but the Knights’ actual story–their rise and shocking downfall– is even more interesting.  He gives a brief backstory.  Formed during the crusades, the Templars gained fame as the noblest and bravest knights in Christendom.  Their legend grew which increased their numbers.   “They were the Jedi of their time.”  They peaked in the 13th century under the protection of the Catholic Church and The Pope.  Then in October 1307 the king of France ordered the mass arrest of All Templars in his kingdom (15,000 of them).  They were brought before the Inquisition and accused of witchcraft, heresy and sodomy.  Guillaume de Nogaret the king’s chef minister staged a huge show trail.  Prisoners who denied the charges were tortured until they confessed, which made everyone who refused to confess seem like a liar. Despite knowing the truth, the Pope bowed to pressure and Templars were destroyed.  Wow. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SONG OF THE SILENT LAND (2004).

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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