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Archive for the ‘Julian Koster’ Category

basoonSOUNDTRACK: THE MUSIC TAPES-Tiny Desk Concert #182 (December 20, 2011).

musictaopesJulian Koster released an album in 2008 called The Singing Saw at Christmastime.  It was a complete CD of Christmas songs played on the saw.  That should tell you that Koster is an unusual fellow. But that doesn’t prepare you for what he unleashes during his Tiny Desk Concert with The Music Tapes.

Koster has a very high-pitched voice (I have a recording of him doing “I’ve Got My Love to Keep me Warm,” which is almost unbearable.  His singing is really close to the fine line of unique and bad (and I imagine for many it crosses the line). He’s also got a fascinating way of looking at things and of storytelling.  So this Tiny Desk show winds up being quite long (20 minutes) with quite a lot of different things going on.

First he tells a lengthy story about his great grandpa.  And how his great grandpa told him that baby trees can walk.  But they are tethered to the ground by an umbilical cord. And when we cut them down, we sever the cord.  And a Christmas tree is adorned and worshiped for two weeks and then set free to roam the earth.  It is a warm and strange and delightful.

Then he and a second member of the group play “The First Noel” on two saws.  It’s weird ad wonderful.  At the end of the song he has his saw bow, and Bob says he didn’t know a saw could bow.  Julian says they do and in fact that singing saws sing by themselves but we encourage them by petting them and placing them in our laps.

I don’t enjoy everything Koster does, so the second song “Freeing Song For Reindeer,” a banjo based piece about a tired old reindeer transporting Santa is slow and kind of sad and not my thing.

But then he tells a story of growing up with all kinds of culture and Holiday traditions which leads into a version of Gavin Bryars’ “Jesus Blood.”  I enjoy the original and didn’t know what to expect here.  They begin with a tape loop of an old man singing the song (possibly the one Bryars used, but I don’t know).  And then Koster starts playing the banjo with a bow.  And then a second guy does the same. Then the percussionist stars playing the toy piano and the noises build.  He switches from piano to trumpet and plays along.  Meanwhile the second banjo player switches back to the saw for the end. It’s really quite a lovely performance.

“Takeshi And Elijah” is another slow and keening banjo based song.  It’s pretty long, I don’t really like it, but by the end, as it builds with trumpet and toy piano, he ends the song sith a puppet Santa doing a tap dance as percussion.  It’s a great ending to an okay song.

The final song is “Zat You, Santa Claus?”  It’s played on bowed banjo and sousaphone.  It’s a fun and crazy rendition.   It’s one of the weirdest Tiny Desk shows and certainly the weirdest Christmas set.

[READ: December 5, 2015] The Bassoon King

I really liked Rain Wilson in The Office, but I haven’t seen him in much else (I forgot he was in Six Feet Under and Galaxy Quest) . I wanted to like Backstrom, but it got cancelled before we even watched an episode.

So why did I check out this memoir of an actor I like a little bit?  Well, primarily for the title.  The Bassoon King had an absurd ring that I really gravitated towards.  When I saw there was an introduction by Dwight Kurt Schrute, I knew this would be a good book.

The introduction (by Dwight) is very funny.  I love Dwight and I love thinking to myself “FALSE!” whenever I disagree with someone.  Dwight wondered why anyone would read a biography of a young semi-famous actor.  “Fact. NO. ONE. CARES.”  But then says he doesn’t care either because he is making a lot of dollars per word for this thing.

Rainn begins his memoir by making fun of his big head (especially when he was a baby).  It’s pretty funny.  And then he describes his hippie family and his weird name.  His mom changed her named from Patricia to Shay in 1965.  She wanted to name Rainn “Thucydides.”  But his dad always liked Rainer Maria Rilke.  Now, they lived pretty close to Mt Rainier, so they went for Rainn (“Tack an extra letter on there for no apparent reason”). (more…)

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holmes 5SOUNDTRACK: THE FLAMING LIPS-“Silent Night/Lord Can You Hear Me” (2008).

FlamingLipsSilentNight-e688b9521eb5a5b691fc125bf0de77277e6fb7e9-s1The last Flaming Lips Christmas song I heard was their rendition of “White Christmas” which is creepy and just awful.  For this one, they picked a much prettier song (“Silent Night”) and they don’t mess with it at all.  They keep it very simple–echoed keyboards and some backing vocals with Wayne Coyne’s autotuned voice singing properly.  It is certainly not the best version of the song I’ve heard, but it is at least pretty.

The song segues into “Lord, Can You Hear Me” which follows the same simple instrumentation as “Silent Night” and nearly keeps the same melody.  It’s not so much a song as a coda to “Silent Night.”

This single came out around the time of Christmas on Mars and includes as the B-side “It’s Christmas Time Again.”

[READ: December 6, 2013] Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Speckled Band

Since I’m going to write about a few of these, I’ll keep up this little intro bit so I don’t have to re-write the general ideas/criticisms.

These are indeed the actual Arthur Conan Doyle stories just severely edited and truncated.  In other words, a lot of the story is cut out and yet the original language is still in place (at least I hope it is, I hope contemporary writers didn’t write the dialogue), so for young kids I think the wording is a little confusing.  The drawings are a little too simple for my liking as well.  They do effectively convey the story, but I didn’t like the very basicness of them.  I feel they make the stories seems a little more childlike than they actually are.

Having said all that however, I found the graphic novels to be a compelling introduction to Sherlock Holmes’ shorter stories (although not for my 8-year-old apparently).

This is the last book of the series that I have read–there are apparently 14 as of this writing.  I don’t think I’ll be reading any more as I feel like I am getting such a small amount of the story that it would be more worthwhile to simply read the actual stories (which I had planned to do anyhow).  Reading these feels like I’m getting the answer to the puzzle ahead of time. (more…)

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holmes2SOUNDTRACK: JULIAN KOSTER-“Frosty the Snowman” (2008).

sawThe name of this track doesn’t prepare you for what lies inside.  For that, you need the album title: Singing Saw at Christmas.  Julian Koster (who is part of the Elephant 6 collective) and has a love it or hate it voice, also plays the singing saw (another love it or hate it sound).

And so, in 2008 he released an album of Singing Saw Christmas Carols.  And NPR played it on their Holiday Show.  The version is simultaneously beautiful and terribly unsettling.  It’s hard to even know what it is if you aren’t aware that it is a saw (I at first guessed theremin).

I enjoy hearing it (and it is very short), but I don’t think I could bring myself to listen to a whole album.

Koster released a short holiday video in which he plays a song and tells a story.  To watch him play the saw (with a fellow saw player, tune in around 3:50).

[READ: December 6, 2013] Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure at the Abbey Grange

Since I’m going to write about a few of these, I’ll keep up this little intro bit so I don’t have to re-write the general ideas/criticisms.

These are indeed the actual Arthur Conan Doyle stories just severely edited and truncated.  In other words, a lot of the story is cut out and yet the original language is still in place (at least I hope it is, I hope contemporary writers didn’t write the dialogue), so for young kids I think the wording is a little confusing.  The drawings are a little too simple for my liking as well.  They do effectively convey the story, but I didn’t like the very basicness of them.  I feel they make the stories seems a little more childlike than they actually are.

Having said all that however, I found the graphic novels to be a compelling introduction to Sherlock Holmes’ shorter stories (although not for my 8-year-old apparently).

This story also struck me as unusual (perhaps I just have certain expectations of Holmes’ that are not quite right).  Holmes usually comes across as cocky (and frankly, obnoxious) when he finds a clue.  In this case he seemed almost deferential to the police (maybe the modern interpretations of Holmes show him to be more obnoxious).  Even though he felt things were not right about the clues, he didn’t insist upon correcting them immediately.  He even took the police’s word for things (unheard of!).  Although perhaps that was all planned out because of what happens at the end. (more…)

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