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Archive for the ‘Kodagain’ Category

blueblue SOUNDTRACK: NICK BUZZ-A Quiet Evening at Home (2013).

quietIt seemed like Martin Tielli was done making music after his (so far) final solo album in 2009.  He has been focusing on (gorgeous) visual arts since then.  But then in 2013, Tielli along with Jonathan Goldsmith, Hugh Marsh and Rob Piltch recorded another Nick Buzz album (cover painting by Tielli)–possibly their last as well, but who knows.

This album is almost entirely mellow, with beautiful slow pieces and delicate singing and instrumentation–with some exceptions.  The biggest exception is the first song and single (with video) “The Hens Lay Everyday.”  It is unlike anything else on the album.  It is a weird, electronic fast song with pulsing beats and funny lyrics (and a crazy video).  It’s kind of a shame that it’s on this album because I want more music like that.  But the rest of the album is also wonderful in a very different way.  This song just doesn’t fit.

Beginning with the second song, the album is a beautiful album of wonderful ballads.

“This is Not My World” is a delicate guitar song with simple keyboard washes.  Martin’s voice even sounds different on the song–I almost didn’t recognize him until the last few verses.  “Milchig” opens with a buzzy violin (that sounds almost like a fly).  Tielli did this song with The Art of Time Ensemble (it was called “Moglich”).  It has a gentle guitar and Tielli’s keening voice and spoken word–“he had given me ‘the relax.'”  There’s several sections in this song, and I especially like the slowly lurching middle section.

“Sea Monkeys” opens with some delicate chimes and underwatery sounds.  And once again, Tielli’s voice sounds different.  I love this peculiar song about ordering and “growing” sea monkeys.  He says he only wanted plankton or krill but during that evening, the sea monkeys started building their city, and after 4 and a half minutes, the song turns somewhat more sinister with a section about the Crustacean Monkey Queen.  The delicate music grows harsher and more mechanical sounding.  It’s pretty intense.  And it coincidentally relates to the book below.

“If You Go Away” has a vaguely Spanish guitar feel to it.  It’s a very delicate, slow ballad (I should have realized it was an old song written by Jacques Brel) with strummed guitar and gentle percussion.  It has a lounge feel as well (the romantic lyrics aid in that style).  It was recorded live with audience clapping at the end.

The mood picks up a little with the next song, “The Happy Matador.”  It’s played on acoustic guitar with flamenco-esque runs.  It’s a delightful song even if lyrically it’s a little dark.  “Eliza” is a darkly comic song with a kind of circusy feel.  It opens with accordion, adds a violin and basically makes fun of a woman named Eliza, with the great last line: “The only incredible thing about Eliza is the terrible terrible music she inspires.”

“A Quiet Evening at Home” opens with some strange noises like Circo did, but this is an older, more mellow album and they quickly give way to some pretty, delicate guitar chords.  About two and a half minutes of gentle chords are disrupted by a noisy saxophone and some manipulated spoken words.  This process repeats itself for about six minutes of mellow, slightly weird, but really enjoyable music.

“Uncle Bumbo’s Christmas” continues in that delicate vein, but this time with actual words.  It has gentle echoed guitar and some occasional strings.  It’s not exactly a Christmas song although the lyric “I love everything about Christmas, except Christmas” is decidedly ambiguous.  There’s beautiful overlays of vocals and guitar for the middle two minutes of the song before it resumes with a slightly more uptempo and much more catchy end section.  This song gets better with each listen.

“The House with the Laughing Windows” opens with a tinkling piano melody.  It hovers between ominous and dreamy.  I like the way the song gently, almost imperceptibly, builds over the course of its 4 and a half minutes.  And I love the way the guitars start playing louder as if the song is going to build to something bigger but it never quite does.  John Tielli plays theremin on this track.

“Aluminum Flies” is a slightly louder song which is much more meandering and ends with what I believe is the sound of windshield wipers.  The final song is the lovely “Birds of Lanark County.”  It opens with chickadees chirping and a beautiful delicate acoustic guitar melody from Martin.  Michele Williams sings lovely backing vocals.

It’s amazing how different this album is from Circo–same band members but an entirely different style, and a simply gorgeous collection of songs.

[READ: November 25, 2015] Blue on Blue

I had never heard of Quentin S. Crisp before (he’s not to be confused with Quentin Crisp, the British raconteur who died in 1999).  Except that I knew he contributed lyrics to the most recent Kodagain album.  But I received an advance copy of this book with Brendan Connell’s latest book (its publication date is December 15 (from Snuggly Books)).

This story was fantastic (in both senses of the word).

The story is told in 5 parts.  And what I loved about it was that the central part of the story is a fairly conventional story about love and loss, and yet the other four parts frame the story with an other-worldliness that is almost familiar, but not quite.

The story begins with the statement “I am a citizen of the ASAF, the Alternative State of the American Fifties.”  There’s a footnote attached which explains that the ASAF “ia an artificial history zone ‘reclaimed’ from sunken parallel time.”  This is a potentially worrisome beginning to a book to be sure, and yet the book does not go through any rabbit- or worm- hole, this is simply the set up for the story. (more…)

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Connell Dr.Black jacketSOUNDTRACK: KODAGAIN-“King of Curls” (2014).

supernaturalWhen I looked for a picture of this book cover, I was connected to Connell’s blog which has links to many songs by Kodagain. After some more work, I learned that Kodagain features music by Saša Zorić Čombe and lyrics by Brendan Connell!

It was hard to find any real details about Kodagain (they have a media presence, but it is rather abbreviated), until I saw their soundcloud page which gives these nuggets of information

  • Kodagain formed in 1985 in Knjazevac, SE Serbia, where it’s hard to be alternative but easy to be alone.
  • Kodagain writes and records songs with English lyrics because English is more musical than Serbian.
  • Kodagain has a miniaturist approach to pop music, channelling influences from Henry Purcell, through Dean Martin, to Roxy Music, into short compositions combining a bubblegum-pop concern for melody with lo-fi experimentalism, resulting in songs as soulful as they are playful.
  • Many of the lyrics have been provided by the existing poetry of famous poets such as Dorothy Parker, Oscar Wilde, Chu-I Po (Bai Juyi), Lord Byron, Ogden Nash, Sara Teasdale, Louisa Stuart Costello and Robert Creely.
  • Since 2007, Kodagain has also been using … original lyrics from the writer Quentin S. Crisp; since 2012, Kodagain has similarly collaborated with the writer Brendan Connell.  Brendan Connell says: “My ultimate goal is to write a vast number of lyrics about natural wonders, public parks, lost watches, Indian villages, hidden love, birds, trees, mountain passes, fake Taoists, imperceptible colors, rhetorical mysteries, and flowers. Ideally these would be compounded into a ‘Guide for Modern Life’ which could be used to build better relations between workers and their bosses, the various sexes, and those whose religious beliefs differ.”
  • Their songs and videos can be found in generous supply on YouTube and SoundCloud. Albums include: Speed Up, The Nowhere Land’s Echoes, A Drink With Something In It, 000, Vranje, Letters From Quentin, Time to Get Ready for Love, My Fear of His Fear of Death, and Supernatural.

Since encountering Kodagain, I have become totally transfixed by them.  The melodies are simple and lovely and Zorić Čombe’s voice is gentle but wise.  Lyrically the songs are certainly all over the place, and most of the songs are under 2 minutes long.  The instrumentation is simple–usually a gentle guitar, steady drums and multi-tracked voices.

It was really hard to pick a song to talk about because there are so many.  But I decided to pick “King of Curls,” in part because the video is fantastic, and so are the lyrics

If I ruled the world
I’d call myself
The King of Curls

If I were king
I’d change damn near
Everything

If I ruled the world
My army wouldn’t fight wars
But rather eat chocolate bars
And move to the beat
In shorts
While my advisors wise
Would do jazzercise

(and that’s just the first part!)

Zorić Čombe’s voice sounds a bit to me like a smoother Jens Lekman (although that could just be the enunciation style).  I find his songs utterly enchanting.

And if you look on YouTube, you’ll find dozens of videos–most of which are masterpieces of found footage.

[READ: February 20, 2015] The Metanatural Adventures of Dr Black

About 7 years ago, I read a novella called Dr Black and the Guerrillia and I liked it quite a lot.  I liked that Connell created this character, with no apparent context (at least none given in the story) and that it was so amazingly detailed and “real” and yet so seemingly unreal–an unsatisfying word which Connell has corrected for me with the title of this collection–Metanatural.

This book is something of a collection of short stories about Dr. Black, but it is far more than that.  It collects some of the adventures that Dr. Black has been on as well as some of the patents and other ephemera and fashions a kind of narrative (although a very sketchy narrative) about the life he leads.

Before I even get to the “plot” of the book, I need to say just how much I enjoyed reading this book. I was absolutely captivated by Connell’s voice.  Over the years I have known that Connell was an accomplished writer with an unparalleled attention to detail and to choosing the precise word.  But somehow in the Dr. Black stories Connell’s details and specifics push the narrative to real heights.  Perhaps it is because Dr Black seems so real that when anything “metanatural” happens to him, it is entirely believable–drawing you into his exploits even further.  I really wanted to read more and more.

Having said all that, while this book is certainly his most accessible, it is still not light reading.  Connell challenges the reader with his extensive vocabulary, his lack of compunction about throwing in some obscure sections of text (that I won’t pretend I understood, but which didn’t bother me at all) and his willingness to defy reality, which may lose some readers.  But the rewards of the stories are worth it. (more…)

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