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Archive for the ‘Kate Bush’ Category

[ATTENDED: March 16, 2013] C!rca: Wunderkammer

circa1 As part of our theater-going experience, I bought Sarah and I tickets to C!rca’s Wonderkammer show.  I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect (but we’ve has such good luck with shows that we didn’t know anything about that  I wasn’t worried).  The blurb about C!rca reads:

In this exquisite cabaret of the senses, a diva melts into a rope, balloons and bubble wrap discover their artistic souls while bodies twist and fly.  Seven performers of unbelievable ability bend the very fabric of reality.  Sexy, funny and explosive, Circa presents a breathless cocktail of new circus, cabaret and vaudeville.  Control and abandon, skill and humour, lyricism and anarchy all meld into a sinuous fugue of profound beauty.

So, you sort of think you know what you’re going to get, but in many ways that descriptions is kind of meaningless.  It may help to say that C!rca are from Australia (meaning it’s unconventional).  But really nothing prepared me for what we saw. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RA RA RIOT-Live at the Black Cat, Washington DC,  October 12, 2008 (2008).

I really like Ra Ra Riot’s album The Rhumb Line, and this concert is basically a showcase for that album.  There’ s an interview at the end of the show (all downloadable from NPR), in which the  band says that critics raved about their live show as much as their album.

I don’t really hear that the show is more energetic than the album (maybe visually they are wild), but it did sound fantastic.  It’s amazing to hear a rock band that is dominated by strings–the cello and violin are often louder than the guitar (but not in a competing/drown you out kind of way,  more of a strings do the melodies and the guitar adds bulk to the sound).

I always enjoy hearing a band that is grateful to their audience for showing up (this is most evident in young bands, who seem so much more genuine about their love of the audience) and Ra Ra Riot are certainly that .  They seem genuinely surprised at the turn out, and they play a great set accordingly.

There are two songs that aren’t on the album here “A Manner to Act” and the encore “Everest.”  They both feel like they came off the album, which bodes well for their second album, Orchard, which just came out in May.  Ra Ra Riot also do a great cover of the obscure Kate Bush song “Suspended in Gaffa.”  At the end of the show they tack on a cover of “Hounds of Love.”  Lead singer Wesley Miles has a wonderfully strong voice and he can reach some pretty high notes–not soprano or anything like that, just strong enough to be able to pull off a Kate Bush cover.

This is a great show.  And when you read about the tragedy they suffered just as they were starting to take off, their obsession with death may not be so surprising.  I’m looking forward to Orchard.

[READ: 1995 and August 18, 2011] Microserfs

After reading Life After God and thinking about Microserfs, I looked up Coupland’s bibliography and saw that indeed Microserfs came next.  And I was really excited to read it.  I have recently watched the JPod TV show and I knew that JPod was a kind of follow-up to Microserfs, so I wanted to see how much of it rang true.  And I’ve got to say that I really rather enjoyed this book.

While I was reading this, I started taking notes about what was happening in the book.  Not the plot, which is fairly straightforward, but about the zeitgeisty elements in the book.  And, since I’m a big fan of David Foster Wallace, I was also noting how many zeitgeisty things this book had in common with Infinite Jest.  I’m thinking of tying it all together in a separate post, maybe next week.  But I’ll mention a few things here.

My son also loved the cover of this book because it has a Lego dude on it and he has been really getting into Lego lately.

So Microserfs is the story of a bunch of underpaid, overworked coders who work for Microsoft.  The book is written as the journal of Daniel Underwood (Coupland still hadn’t really branched out of the first person narrative style, but the journal does allow for some interesting insights).  The story begins in Fall 1993.  I felt compelled to look up some ancient history to see what was happening in the computer world circa 1993 just for context.  In 1991, Apple released System 7.   In 1993, Windows introduced Windows NT, Intel released the first Pentium chip, Myst was released and Wired magazine launched.  In 1994, Al Gore coined the term Information Superhighway.  Yahoo is created.  The Netscape browser is introduced.  So we’re still in computer infancy here.  It’s pretty far-seeing of DC to write about this.

Daniel works at Microsoft with several friends.  Daniel is a bug tester, Michael (who has an office, not a cube) is a coder, Todd (a bodybuilder) is a bug tester.  There’s also Susan (smart and independent), Abe (secret millionaire) and Bug Barbecue (an old man–he’s like 35).  The five of them live in a house on “campus.”  There’s also Karla (a type A bossyboots who doesn’t like seeing time wasted) who works with them but lives up the street.

As the story opens, Michael has just received a flame email from Bill Gates himself and has locked himself in his office.  This leads to a very funny scene and ongoing joke in which the office mates feed slide two-dimensional food under his door and he vows to eat only things that are flat. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KATE BUSH-Director’s Cut (2011).

Kate Bush has re-recorded eleven songs from her two least-loved discs, The Sensual World and The Red Shoes.  According to the story at NPR, this seems to have been inspired by the Joyce estate’s granting Kate the right to use part of Ulysses as the lyrics for the song “The Sensual World” (in the original version she paraphrased the book).  So, she decided to re-record a bunch of other songs from those two albums as well.

I admit that neither one of those discs is high on my repeat play list, with The Red Shoes being a particular disappointment.  (Although there are some great songs on each).  When I read that these songs from those two albums I wasn’t terribly excited to hear them.  But I must say that these new versions have really reinvigorated these tracks.

I’m surprised by some of the choices (redoing “This Woman’s Work” is something of a shock, as is redoing her only real hit from The Red Shoes, “Rubberband Girl”), but whether it’s that she chose the best songs, or the new version have more life to them, this is a wonderful collection of songs.

Actually, rechecking the track listing, it does appear to be the best tracks from both discs, but I’m pleasantly surprised to seen how many good songs were actually on The Red Shoes to begin with,

from The Sensual World

  • Sensual World (retitled “Flower of the MOuntain”)
  • Deeper Understanding
  •  This Woman’s Work
  • Never Be Mine

from The Red Shoes

  • The Song of Solomon
  • Lily
  • The Red Shoes
  • Moments of Pleasure
  • Top of the City
  • And So is Love
  • Rubberband Girl

For the most part, the music seems to be the same (although there are some glaring exceptions).  I admit to not remembering the originals for all of them all that well).  But she has mostly rerecorded her voice (and possibly other lyrics, if NPR is accurate).  Her voice is unmistakably Kate, but in some places she sounds noticeably older (which she is, so duh).  She doesn’t seem to be able to hit quite the highs of before, but her voice has a throaty excellence to it now that brings something new to the songs.  It’s not noticeable on every song, although it is most notable on “This Woman’s Work,” which began with high sopranos, and now begins with lower alto notes.  But she can still hit some of the cool screechy notes on “Top of the City”

There are some tracks that are very different, “A Deeper Understanding” (a song about love via modems) replaces the earlier style of singing with a heavily autotuned computer voice.  It’s unsettling but very cool sounding.

The biggest changes come in “This Woman’s Work” and “Rubberband Girl.”

“This Woman’s Work” is a far more sedate track now. It doesn’t have any of the soaring moments of the original.  It seems to have more depth in this version, but I miss the “Oh darling make it go away” moment.  Nevertheless, it sounds really pretty in this more mature version.  It’s simply a very different song now.

As for “Rubberband Girl,” I’ve always had a real fondness for the original, so I don’t know how I feel about the rerecorded version (which is so very different).  The original is very elastic with cool music and weird vocals and is kind of trippy (and may not even be all that good), but I have grown quiet attached to it.  The new version is a simple guitar sound (it reminds me of a sort of unplugged Rolling Stones song now).

Overall, this is an exciting revitalization of Kate’s back catalog, and I hope it inspires her to make another new album in the next few years or so.

[READ: May 14, 2011] Austerlitz

I read about Sebald in Five Dials. And the glowing talk about him made me want to read one of his books (specifically, this one).

Austerlitz is a strange novel which I enjoyed but which I never really got into.  I feel like rather than absorbing me into its words, the book kind of held me aloft on the surface.  As such, I have a general sense of what happened, but I’d be very hard pressed to discuss it at length.

The basic plot summary is that an unnamed narrator runs into a man named Jacques Austerlitz.  Austerlitz talks to him at length about his life. They run into each other at various points over the years, and Austerlitz’ story is continued.  And literally, that is the book.  Now, of course, Austerlitz’ story is multifaceted and complex.  But we will never forget that this is a story within a story (it’s impossible to forget because the phrase “said Austerlitz” appears about 500 times in the book. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PJ HARVEY-Let England Shake (2011).

I’ve listened to this disc several times online; I have no details about the recording.  There’s samples, but I don’t know what they are and I can’t really tell what all the lyrics are (it’s obvious she’s pretty angry, but the details are lost to me).

The first question for me on hearing this disc is what happened to PJ Harvey’s voice?  It comes as such a shock when you compare it to Dry.  But once I accepted that this is not the PJ Harvey of Rid of Me, I listened to it as a new artist and I really like it.  But it’s a weird record to be sure.

The title track is played on an autoharp (!).  In fact the autoharp is a dominant instrument here.  It’s got a cool melody and, once you accept that she sounds like the singer from Rasputina, you can really appreciate what’s going on.

The second track, “The Last Living Rose,” returns somewhat to the PJ of old (the opening “God damn” sounds like she’s about to bust out some good-ol’ invective).  And there are guitars, but the music is upbeat (as are the vocal melodies) and there’s even a horn!  “The Glorious Land” has samples from the cavalry (I can see the horses riding across the plains) and a cool, slinky guitar (or is that the autoharp?).  There’s male vocals in the middle of the song, and it makes for disconcerting harmonizing (especially when PJ,’s voice ratchets up the weirdness and sounds more like Kate Bush).  But musically this song is great, it’s got a wonderful 80’s alt-rock feel.

“The Words That Maketh Murder” also has horns and some interesting male vocals chanting the lyrics.  This has one of the least subtle lyrics I’ve heard in a long time, although the re-imagining of the “Summertime Blues” refrain is pretty genius.

“All and Everyone” opens with more autoharp, and I think I’m realizing that the autoharp is what I think of as the interesting guitar sound (this song opens like a Smiths’ ballad.)  There’s more horns on this track which adds a weird dimension of sadness to it.  “On Battleship Hill” is a fast but delicate track in which PJ pulls out an astonishing falsetto–completely unexpected.  After the first verses, the rest of the song has, again, a kind of slinky 60s vibe.  “England” brings out the Kate Bush voice in PJ again.  This is a very delicate song, the music is mixed so low in the background that it feels like acapella–I guess Harvey has grown much more confident in her voiuce.  The music builds and builds though and there’s an unexpected middle eastern sounding vocal in the background.

“In the Dark Places” brings out Harvey’s guitar (in this case the Harvey is Mick Harvey, I believe) and her lower register vocals. While “Bitter Branches” is probably the loudest song on the disc, with a bunch of screamed vocals.  It’s rather startling considering the rest of the disc, but it’s nice to know just how much fire PJ still has.

“Hanging in the Wire” is another delicate song, with quiet pianos and Harvey’s sedate voice.  “Written on the Forehead” returns to that middle eastern vibe (“people throwing dinars at the belly dancers”) and that Kate Bush vocal–the backing vocals remind me of Peter Gabriel.  The album ends with “The Colour of the Earth.”  It’s the most disconcerting song of the bunch becuase it opens with a male singer (John Parrish?) singing what sounds like an old trad song (the melody is very traditional).  Then PJ joins in and makes the song her own.

It’s obvious that the lyrics are the main aspect of this disc, and I know that I’m missing something by not having them. I’m also missing a lot by not knowing all that much about England’s history.  It sounds like she has a lot of gripes with Eng-a-lund, and I’m curious to know what she’s on about.  But more than that, I’m totally hooked by the music.  It’s a great reinvention of a great artist.

[READ: February 9, 2011] The Ask

I was planning to read nothing except books from the pile by my bed for the foreseeable future.  And then, as if calling to me, I saw this book, which I was planning to read eventually, on a display right in front of me called Booklist Editor’s Choice (a new display for our library).  I stared at it for three hours and just had to check it out.

And I’m glad I did.  For the most part I really enjoyed this book, it was quite funny and the main character, kind of a schlub, was completely relatable.  I say for the most part because I felt like it dragged a bit about 2/3 of the way through (more on that later).  But its possible that it dragged because the first half of the book was just fantastic–fast paced and clever with lots of wonderfully funny lines (more on that later too).  And a setting that I found very entertaining.

The story is about Milo Burke. He is married to Maura and they have a going-on-four-year-old boy Bernie who is nothing if not precocious.  The titular ask concerns Bernie’s job.  He works for a small arts college in New York (which he called Mediocre University).  His job is to basically ask (hence the title) rich people for money for the college. We see him in his office as the book opens and we meet the rest of the staff: the surprisingly unslacker slacker Hubert (with whom Milo shares space and ribald jokes…this section is the funniest; many paragraphs end with sentences that hilariously undermine what he just described.

We often called it, with what we considered a certain amount of panache, the Mediocre University at NewYork City.  By we, I mean Horace and I.  By often, I mean once (4).

His supervisor is Vargina.  (This name, which is obviously over the top and childish and which I absolutely laughed at and then felt was maybe too easy of a laugh, has a great origin story and is really never not funny no matter how often you see it).  Milo has obscene fantasies about Vargina, but he is a (somewhat) happily married man and would not cheat on his wife.

He’s not very good at his job, but the other askers do alright so his job is safe.  Until, that is, he insults the daughter of one of the university’s biggest donors and he is summarily let go, without severance.  And then we get to see a lot about his home life. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KATE BUSH-Aerial (2005).

This was Kate’s first release in 12 years!  There’s a part of me that would expect unparalleled genius to emerge from a 12 year hiatus, but realistically, what we get is a more mature and confident singer, and songs that sound very much like Kate Bush songs. There’s not a lot of experimentation, although there is a song cycle (two in fact) to hold the disc together.

The first disc (for there are two, totaling about 80 minutes) is listed as “A Sea of Honey”

It opens with “King of the Mountain” a great upbeat single.  Next is “Pi” a fascinating song in which Kate sings out the decimal places of Pi (3.14…).  It’s airy and ethereal, and pretty neat.  “Bertie” is an adorable ode to what I assume is her son. It’s a very sweet love song to a child.

“Mrs Bartolozzi” opens with a piano sequence that sounds very uncomfortably close to a Phil Collins.  And, later in the sings she sings a “sloshy sloshy” part which is pretty odd.  But despite all of this, the song is closest to the Kate of old.

“How to be Invisible” has some really cool choral effects (and is a very neat concept lyrically).  It also features a very nice guitar line that sneaks out of the musical tapestry from time to time.  “Joanni” rocks in Kate’s inimitable way (and it’s about Joan of Arc).  It has also got some fun and funny parts the reflect the Kate of old (screaming vocals way down in the mix and “Mmm Hmms” that are kind of silly).  The disc ends with the gorgeous ballad “A Coral Room.”

The second disc “A Sky of Honey” is more of a complete song cycle (It starts with a Prelude AND a Prologue).  There’s a couple of short songs (90 seconds each) thrown in the middle.  My favorite is the final track, “Aerial” which has a cool dance rhythm (that seems so unlike Kate) which propels the song almost magically.

Overall, this disc doesn’t overwhelm me as much as say Hounds of Love, but it’s a really solid disc and I’ve found myself listening to and enjoying it a lot over the last few weeks.  It’s nice to have Kate back.  I wonder how long it will be for her next disc.

[READ: November 27, 2009] Unspeakable Practices Unnatural Acts

After reading (the incomplete) “The Balloon” (see the post), I decided to give the entire collection a spin.  I didn’t really enjoy the short stories I had read in Harper’s, but I did enjoy “The Balloon,” so I thought it would be worth investigating Barthleme (a little) further.

This collection is a mix of utterly absurdist stories (many of which seem to have multiple vantage points that I found rather difficult to keep track of ).  One of the most noteworthy things about the collection is that it seems to me to be very topical circa 1968.  And I think I’m missing a lot of what is happening in the stories.   I’ll cite examples below, but oftentimes I assume that I’m just not getting something that I should be getting (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KATE BUSH-The Red Shoes (1993).

The Red Shoes is something of a disappointment. While I enjoyed The Sensual World, it was definitely moving in a more adult contemporary vein.  The Red Shoes proceeds even further in this direction.  Since Kate is getting older, it makes sense that her music would change as well.

But there are some really fun tracks on here as well.  And Kate’s initial experiments with world music (the Bulgarian Choir) has really expanded into a more global palette (the island feel of “Eat the Music,” for instance).

The first four songs of the disc are really great.  They show an amazing diversity.  The first single “Rubberband Girl” is quite fun and bouncey.  It has a rather silly middle section where she makes rubberband-like sounds.   “And So is Love” sounds like classic Kate, with some wonderful vocals.  “Eat the Music” is a crazy, up beat horn fueled island track (with wonderfully suggestive lyrics).  And  “Moments of Pleasure” is a delightfully romantic song.

However, beginning with “Song of Salomon” with its awkward chorus of “don’t want no bullshit, just want your sexuality” the album trails off a little bit.  The rest of the songs feel kind of hurried and unspecific; there’s nothing really grabby about them.  They’re not bad, but they’re not all that memorable.  In fact, “Constellation of the Heart” is one of those rare aspects of a Kate disc: a song that sounds really dated.

The one exception to this decline is “Top of the City,” a really nice ballad that features some classic Kate vocals.

Of the remainder, “Big Stripey Lie” has some cool sound effects and lots of weirdness floating around it (and I do quite like it) although it’s really not as substantial as her previous experimental pieces.

Probably the most controversial song on the disc is “Why Should I Love You?” a duet with Prince.  While the main chorus is pretty cool (and uncannily Prince-like) the rest of the track sounds (again) very dated.  The track also features the great comedian Lenny Henry on vocals.  However, since Henry is responsible for what may be the worst sitcom theme song ever in the history of music (it may actually make you want to not watch the rather funny Chef, it is so awful) his inclusion isn’t really all that wonderful.  The disc ends with “You’re the One” a weird (in a good way) track that features The Bulgarian Chorus again.  They seem to do a great job of keeping Kate’s songs focused, so the disc ends on a high note.

This disc is pretty soundly dismissed by even diehard Kate fans.  And it is definitely her least satisfying overall. But if you look deeper into the disc, there are some unfairly overlooked gems.

[READ: November 20, 2009] Symzonia

After reading Etidorhpa, I started looking around at other Hollow Earth books.  And thankfully, someone has done most of the work already. So, for an absurdly long list of Hollow Earth books, check out this link.  I was delighted to see that so many of them are quite short!

When I saw this book, and realized that it was about the world mentioned in “Symmes Hole” (from McSweeney‘s) and that it was very likely written by Symmes himself (there is still debate, but it is convincing that he wrote it) I decided to check it out.

Sadly, this book was considerably duller than Etidorhpa.  It was 250 pages and the first 100 were details of his journey to the South Pole.  Which would be fine except that since the author is a sailor he gives excruciating details about not only sailing, but even shipbuilding (including how smart he was for making the ship as strong as he did,) and the directions of the wind and speculation about longitude and all that great seafaring stuff.  That’s not my thing, so I found it rather tedious. (more…)

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esquireSOUNDTRACK: KATE BUSH-Aspects of the Sensual World (1989).

This was the first CD single that I can remember acquiring.  I got it from the radio station at school, and I felt like I was in on a big secret having all of these bonus tracks.

There are five songs on this disc.  The original “The Sensual World” and an instrumental version of the song.  The three bonus songs are pretty rocking songs that fit nicely with this era of Kate’s output.  “Be Kind to My Mistakes” sounds like it should be a sweet ballad, but no, it’s all percussion-heavy and fun.  And “I’m Still Waiting” is even more intense, with some of Kate’s over the top vocals added in.

The final track, “Ken” is the theme song to The Comic Strip Presents short film The GLC.  It’s a wonderful theme song, even if the film is a parody.  It’s got a singalong “da da da” chorus and fist pumping backing vocals and all sorts of fun things.  You can see the “preview” for the film along with Kate’s song, on YouTube.

This disc is something of a trifle compared to her full CDs, but it’s an easier way to get these tracks than buying This Woman’s Work!  When The Sensual World came out I assumed that Kate cut off all her hair (judging by the cover), but this cover belies that.  I wonder which one is a wig.

[READ: November 13, 2009] “An Insurrection”

This story won the Esquire fiction contest.  I fully intended to submit a story to this contest, but, well, I forgot.  I didn’t write a word for it (although I did spend a few days thinking about what I would write about).  If I had won the contest, I would of course have wanted people to read my story, so I felt it was the least I could do to read the winner’s story.

And I’m a little mixed about it.

I’m not at all certain why there was such emphasis placed on the fact that it was a post- 9/11 scenario.  The jokes about cashing in on people’s insecurities about terrorism were fine but it didn’t really warrant all of the set up about when the story took place. (more…)

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